Friday, July 30

Hannah Beech's great report for TIME on Burma's frightening new elite

It's a shame that the media uproar this past week about WikiLeaks obscured award-winning journalist Hannah Beech's Soldiers of Fortune. It's the clearest window on the country since the 2007 protests. The view is not pretty. The sanctions imposed by the West in the wake of the protests had no effect beyond making the generals angrier at the West and even more paranoid. Yet while the vast majority of Burmese sink deeper into poverty the junta and its cronies have gotten filthy rich and spawned a 'youth elite' of cadets.

See this blog for the story behind the 2004 photograph of Hannah Beech (at left). She is certainly doing the journalism profession and TIME proud.

CHINA SMOG ALERT beep beep beep CHINA SMOG ALERT beep beep

Doesn't take a crystal ball to know that China's military leaders are hopping mad about Admiral Mullen's remarks to the Indians about naval cooperation; all you need do is read B. Raman's first report today, impishly titled Need for India - Vietnam Strategic Naval Dialogue. Now the PLA is going to dial up the propaganda machine and generate so much smog, satellites will have trouble seeing China from space. I suppose it must be infuriating to the CCP leaders that the USA is in hock to Beijing and yet there's Mullen in India, mooning the PLA.


My August 9 post replies to RAWA, Malalai Joya, and other high-profile critics the TIME cover.
Americans didn't lose their compass during the Cold War; they smashed it to smithereens. In the process we savaged our prized national character -- substituting sneakiness for directness, triangulation for sincerity.

TIME has published an abridged version of their August 9 cover story as well as a long-winded apology for placing the photograph of a mutilated 18-year old Afghan girl named Aisha on the cover. But Aisha, who lives in hiding under armed guard, wanted the world to see what the Taliban did to her, and she was clearly aware of the dangers of posing for the cover. Last year her nose and ears were hacked off at the order of a Taliban judge because she ran away from a husband who beat her so badly she feared for her life. Here I turn to the following passages from the TIME report:
As the war in Afghanistan enters its ninth year, the need for an exit strategy weighs on the minds of U.S. policymakers. Such an outcome, it is assumed, would involve reconciliation with the Taliban. But Afghan women fear that in the quest for a quick peace, their progress may be sidelined. "Women's rights must not be the sacrifice by which peace is achieved," says parliamentarian Fawzia Koofi.

Yet that may be where negotiations are heading. The Taliban will be advocating a version of an Afghan state in line with their own conservative views, particularly on the issue of women's rights. Already there is a growing acceptance that some concessions to the Taliban are inevitable if there is to be genuine reconciliation.

"You have to be realistic," says a diplomat in Kabul. "We are not going to be sending troops and spending money forever. There will have to be a compromise, and sacrifices will have to be made." ...
Compromise? What are we supposed to compromise with? Damnation? Here are pictures of Afghanistan's urban women before the Russian invasion and before Pakistan's military, with American weapons, training and tax dollars, methodically destroyed Afghanistan's national army and forced the country back in time while NATO countries looked the other way.

Here are Afghanistan's women before the American people turned their back and allowed Pakistan's military and their 'Taliban' goons -- the Pakistani equivalent of Mao's Red Guard -- to commit massacres in Afghanistan. Take a good look.

"Biology class, Kabul University."
In the 1950s and 1960s, Afghan women pursued co-educational studies and professional careers in fields such as medicine.

"A villager welcomes visiting nurses to his compound."
The central government of Afghanistan once oversaw various rural development programs, including one, pictured here, that sent nurses in jeeps to remote villages to inoculate residents from such diseases as cholera.

"Student nurses at Maternity Hospital, Kabul."
When I was growing up [in Afghanistan], education was valued and viewed as the great equalizer. If you went to school and achieved good grades, you'd have the chance to enter college, maybe study abroad, be part of the middle class, and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Education was a hallowed value.

The photographs and captions are from a handbook published by Afghanistan's planning ministry in the 1960s. Mohammad Qayoum obtained a copy of the book, digitized the photographs, which number more than a score, and published them along with captions and his commentary at Foreign Policy in May under the title Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan. (Or view the article and photos at the e-Ariana website, which published them on one page.)

Qayoum, an Afghan expat who is president of California State University, grew up in Kabul and came to work in the United States in 1978. Since 2002 he's volunteered his time in Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts, serving on the board of directors to the central bank and as senior advisor to the minister of finance.

Qayoum republished the book's images in part because he was tired of hearing Western officials and Afghanistan 'experts' describe his countrymen as barbarians. Here is a picture of the barbarians in Cabinet session:

Most high-ranking Afghan government officials in that era had a master's or doctoral degree. It's not for nothing that Afghanistan was once called "the Geneva of Central Asia."

Yet in key ways the modernization wasn't as deep as the photographs suggest. For example they never had a railway system (beyond a few miles of track); the first railway is being built only now. An Afghan ruler, whose name escapes me at the moment, wouldn't allow railroads during the British Raj; he said the British would use them to ferry soldiers throughout the country and he was probably right. But after the British left the Afghans didn't build railways. Without a rail or road system connecting the different regions of the country, Afghanistan's modernity outside cities such as Kabul and Kandahar was very brittle. This helps explain why the society collapsed so quickly.

And they didn't have a big enough electrical grid to sustain heavy industry although they had light and medium industry (see the photos). India has financed the completion of the Salma hydroelectric dam project, which the Taliban have routinely sabotaged, although with any luck it will be operational next year.

Iran and other neighboring countries are also concerned about the Salma project (Reportedly Tehran has financed the sabotage although I've heard claims that Pakistan's military is behind the sabotage; a lot of finger pointing in all directions.) They'd gotten used to having control of the waters from Afghanistan's rivers; the country loses two-thirds of its water because of inadequate water management infrastructure. And now those other countries are alarmed that a resurgent Afghanistan wants at least some of the water for its own purposes. How very tacky of the Afghans.

In short, more than one country was all too happy to see Afghanistan return to the Middle Ages. But the return wasn't a gradual slide; it was a decapitation strike. Between the Russian invasion and Pakistan's methodical dismantling of the country, a generation of business and political leaders, scientists, teachers, and educated civil servants was wiped out.

If you look at the rest of the photographs in the handbook you might be shocked to see what Afghanistan cities were like a half century ago. You'll be in for many more shocks if you have yet to learn that the United States government tricked the Russians into invading Afghanistan. Oh, yes, there was an 'Alden Pyle' in Afghanistan, too. And to play Alden the U.S. had to do the same thing in Afghanistan it did in Indochina: use millions of unwary people who'd never done anything to harm America as pawns.

The American media wouldn't listen to the Russian side of story but it turned out the Russians were telling the truth all along. We still wouldn't know this if Bob Gates hadn't blabbed in his memoir but blab he did:
Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Le Nouvel Observateur (France), Jan 15-21, 1998, p. 76:

Q: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

Brzezinski: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

Brzezinski: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic [fundamentalism], having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
Eight months after that interview two U.S. embassies in Africa were bombed, thus launching al Qaeda's war on America, and here we are today.

No matter how the deck is shuffled the American people used the Afghans in the most ruthless manner. Then we left them at the mercy of Pakistan as payment for the Pak military's help against Russia.

The most awful part of the story is that it's a matter of argument whether our machinations in Afghanistan hastened the fall of the Soviet Union by more than a year or two because the Soviet countries were already deeply mired in debt. The question that haunts is whether Russia's war in Afghanistan drained the Soviet treasury so fast that a sudden collapse of the union was inevitable.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the collapse touched off a humanitarian disaster the scope of which has never been fully told. When Gorbachev turned out the lights on the Soviet Union, the next morning millions of people throughout the empire who worked for the Soviet government awakened to no job, no unemployment check, no nothing. Those who refused to allow their families to starve turned to crime, including stripping nuclear weapons facilities bare and selling what they could on black markets. But reportedly many starved. How many? I don't know.

I've noticed that people from former colonizing nations can become uncomfortable when they hear such talk because it raises unsettled questions about the level of responsibility for their nations' past acts -- and those nations have been very generous in their help to former colonies.

But you only need look at a map to realize the colonizers had an excuse, whereas Americans did not. Look at the small pieces of land the West Europeans and British call home. Now look at the land mass of the United States. We own much of a huge continent, touch two large oceans, and command vast amounts of natural resources. All that means we never had to resort to tactics that characterized the colonizers' business model.

Yet instead of sticking with a foreign policy that was based on America's vastness, after World War Two the U.S. government developed a NATO policy. On paper the policy was a great idea and a necessary one in order to stand up to the Soviets.

The downside is that for the United States, membership in NATO meant that a giant nation had to shrink its viewpoint to the size of midgets while at the same time holding vast military power. The consequences for many of the world's most vulnerable peoples were horrific, and set in motion conflicts that haunt our nation to this day. Americans didn't lose their compass during the Cold War; they smashed it to smithereens. In the process we savaged our prized national character -- substituting sneakiness for directness, triangulation for sincerity.

So it came to a day when Richard Haass, the President of the Council of Foreign Relations, held forth on the present Afghanistan conflict for the edification of National Public Radio's Robert Siegel:
SIEGEL: But the current strategy, as I understand it is this: There has to be a political solution, ultimately, in Afghanistan. That means the Taliban have to be talking with people in the government. And the only thing that would make it reasonable for the Taliban to talk, from their standpoint, would be if the fighting were intolerable.

Therefore, the U.S. and the Afghan army have to gain some superiority on the battlefield before they can proceed to the political settlement. Not realistic in your view?

Dr. HAASS: Not realistic in my view. I simply believe that we don't want to stay that long. It's too expensive. It's a distraction from what I would think would be our real challenges in places like Iran or North Korea. I also simply don't believe that history suggests you could ever build up an Afghan government in which strong, loyal, non-corrupt professional police and military forces would be able to challenge the Taliban.
"Too expensive?" We're hunting in Afghanistan for the shards of our nation's compass. You can't put a price tag on that. A little less attention to cost-benefit analysis and a little more attention to prayer -- as in, 'God forgive us.'

See also Women in Northern Afghanistan Face Taliban Revival by Lynne O'Donnell; AFP (via RAWA); July 22, 2010.
July 31 UPDATE - 3:15 PM EDT
From reader Annlee:

"For those who think Aisha is a one-off, look here. If you have the stomach for it."

The link is to a report on acid attacks in Pakistan against Pakistani women. Warning: Photos accompanying the personal accounts of a few victims are graphic. Here are the opening paragraphs in the report:
It has been mentioned in the previous article, Islamic Barbarism: Disfiguring Women by Acid Attack, Part 2, that Pakistan tops the list of incidence of acid attacks on women with nearly 150 incidents of nationally every year of which about 50 occur in Balochistan. A report, entitled “Acid Terrorism Against Women in Pakistan”, dated December 12, 2009, presents some incidents of this horrific crime.

A statement, titled PAKISTAN: Acid attacks continue to be a serious concern, by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) contains a few incidents of acid attacks with images of the victims in Pakistan (presented below). Behind each one of these pictures lies a painful tale. These are pictures of once lovely women. These faces are no longer and will never be the same again. ...
Pakistan's 'liberal' establishment has been like a deer in the headlights about such attacks. But it's not only the attacks that are devastating; it's also the constant threat they represent that has set back the few freedoms women in Pakistan enjoyed. From a 2007 report by Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani Muslim who is a leading educator, scientist, mathematician and humanist, and who teaches nuclear physics at Islamabad's Quaid-i-Azam University.
...As intolerance and militancy sweep across the Muslim world, personal and academic freedoms diminish with the rising pressure to conform. In Pakistani universities, the veil is now ubiquitous, and the last few unveiled women students are under intense pressure to cover up.

The head of the government-funded mosque-cum-seminary ... in the heart of Islamabad, [Pakistan's] capital, issued the following chilling warning to my university’s female students and faculty on his FM radio channel on 12 April 2007:

"The government should abolish co-education. Quaid-i-Azam University has become a brothel. Its female professors and students roam in objectionable dresses. ... Our female students have not issued the threat of throwing acid on the uncovered faces of women. However, such a threat could be used for creating the fear of Islam among sinful women. There is no harm in it. There are far more horrible punishments in the hereafter for such women. ..."

The imposition of the veil makes a difference. My colleagues and I share a common observation that over time most students -- particularly veiled females -- have largely lapsed into becoming silent note-takers, are increasingly timid, and are less inclined to ask questions or take part in discussions. This lack of self-expression and confidence leads to most Pakistani university students, including those in their mid- or late-twenties, referring to themselves as boys and girls rather than as men and women. ...
And these are the people the NATO governments want Karzai to compromise with.

TIME columnist Joe Klein on Pakistan

Joe Klein's column for TIME's August 9 issue is on solid ground when it sticks to a summary of David Kilcullen's testimony earlier this week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ("We need to kill a lot of Taliban," explained Dave) and Matt Waldman's paper on the control that Pakistan's military has over Taliban killing ISAF troops in Afghanistan. After that he gets lost in the Great American Fog about Pakistan, created by Pakistani influence agents plying propaganda in Washington and the American think tanks and reporters that drink in their every word. On Monday I will try as best I can to untangle Mr Klein's thinking on Pakistan.

Here's my August 3 reply to Klein's column and my August 9 answer critics of the TIME cover.

Thursday, July 29

No sanity in British or American foreign offices but thank heavens there's PM Dave

... In remarks which reverberated across the [Indian] subcontinent within minutes, the prime minister blamed elements of the Pakistani state for promoting the export of terror. Islamabad was quick to criticise Cameron, saying the prime minister should not believe leaked US military documents. A central finding of the Wikileaks documents is that Britain and the US believe the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, is still encouraging the Taliban.

The prime minister's remarks raised eyebrows in the Foreign Office which believes that, given that most terror plots in Britain originate at some point from the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, Britain has a vital interest in maintaining warm relations with Islamabad.

A message was quickly despatched to Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president who will be visiting Cameron at Chequers next week, that Britain believed his government is fighting hard against the terror threat. Cameron echoed this, though he insisted he would continue to talk frankly about Pakistan.

While experienced diplomats were alarmed, Cameron's colleagues saw nothing wrong with his remarks which demonstrated a refreshing approach in their eyes.

William Hague, the foreign secretary, said: "The prime minister is a great diplomat. He is a natural at it."...
Bully, Mr Prime Minister! Bully!

Excerpt above is from Guardian report, An innocent abroad? Plain-talking Cameron alarms FCO veterans.

Where is Bill Ayers when we need him? Where's Rev. Jeremiah Wright? Cat got your tongue, gentlemen?

Washington (CNN - July 29) -- The top U.S. military officer said Thursday that Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was risking lives to make a political point by publishing thousands of military reports from Afghanistan.

"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a news conference at the Pentagon.

In equally stern comments and at the same session, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the massive leak will have significant impact on troops and allies, giving away techniques and procedures. ...
The blood of some young soldier or Afghan family on his hands? Huh? Never before in the annals of warfare has a government paid another to murder its soldiers. How much hand-washing does that involve?

Why didn't you speak up when you learned of Pakistan's role in the murder of American troops? Didn't want to lose your pension, was that it, or spend the rest of your life in a military prison? Why didn't Gates speak up? Or was this your idea of serving your commander-in-chief and the nation?

By God, if Assange and Manning are going to hell, they'll meet the whole lot of you there.

Wednesday, July 28

"WikiLeaks Documents Turn Into Death List"

2:50 AM EDT July 28
"WikiLeaks Documents Turn Into Death List
Just before going off air this AM Batchelor mentioned a report from today's Times -- I think he meant London Times. After two hours of reading through the docs, Times reporters found scores of names and precise locations of Afghan informants for NATO. Batchelor said that the WikiLeaks document dump is a "death list."

Haven't had the heart to look up the Times report but I imagine it's splashed all over Google.

From an interview with Guardian editor on PBS Newshour Tues night, Assange was originally going to dump all the pages onto the internet without making any attempt at redactions. The Guardian editor talked him into letting Guardian and NYT help review the documents to try to redact them and then they brought in Spiegel. But they couldn't cover any more than a fraction of the pages before the July 25 deadline he gave them.

If Assange released those papers as a human rights/anti-war protest it has seriously backfired. And I can only imagine the scandal for the journalism profession.

Also, see PBS NewsHour transcript for Tues for a good summary of how Obama is now trying to spin the WikiLeaks situation. He's sticking to his original story that there was no real news in the leaks and that the new war policy for Afghanistan he worked out late last year addresses all the issues raised in the leaked documents.

10:37 AM
Yes, I saw this story last night, probably right before you did -- it was on

But didn't the NYT or somebody do something similar (on a much smaller scale) and get away with it a few years back?

My general experience is that the leftist press can subvert national security
as much as it likes, with impunity. But maybe this will be different. Maybe
this is finally a bridge too far.

As for Obama -- over the last few months I have come to a new conclusion about the Messiah. One of the common right-wing memes is that the hard left handlers behind Obama (if not Obama himself) are evil geniuses who are orchestrating our destruction with perfect timing and precision. But I don't buy that. I've been watching and analyzing their decisions carefully, and they are incoherent, inept, and plain stupid -- if they intend our destruction, they are making major mistakes all over the place.

I think the reaction to the WikiLeaks stuff is another example -- they have no idea of what they're doing. They just wing it, on EVERYTHING.
Baron Bodissey, Gates of Vienna."

"Baron, may I publish your email?"

"Pundita -
Absolutely. But you might want to fact-check my first assertion -- I don't remember which media outlet it was, or what precisely they did, just that they exposed some people and put their lives in danger, and I don't remember them bearing any consequences for their disgusting actions.

"Baron -
Thank you. No time now to do the factcheck so I'll leave that to the readers.

The kicker is that Obama was informed about the documents before they were published and said he had no objection to their publication. How could he have no objection without defense analysts first reviewing their contents? What did he do, take the word of a journalist or newspaper editor that the documents had been sufficiently redacted to protect the lives of informants and troops?

But while I am not defending Obama, the Afghan campaign is a NATO operation. No way the ISAF command wasn't informed about the docs prior to their publication. So did they have no objection also?

The Afghans just can't catch a break. Every informant whose name and location was not blacked out in those docs is now in mortal danger.

PS: If you want to treat your readers to another Obama foreign relations screwup, listen to Russia expert Steve Cohen's conversation with Batchelor last night. Here's the podcast from the WABC radio archive page. Really, O needs to get a job as a TV talk show host. That's something he could do well.

Hamid Gul: "His fingerprints are all over 9/11 and 26/11"

From an anonymous reader:

Two articles pointing to the evidence in the WikiLeaks dossier that implicate Hamid Gul. Extract from the second one:
A cable filed about a Taliban meeting at which plans for an attack on NATO troops was discussed, noted the fact that Hamid Gul, the highly visible former ISI director, was in attendance. A comment inserted into the field report warned against undue assumptions.

"Hamid Gul was director general of ISI from 1989-1989 and, according to ISI, has not been an official with ISI since that time. It was not known whether Hamid Gul was acting with the knowledge or consent of ISI, or whether any portions of ISI were aware of his activities," a section of the report read.
Substitute, say, “George Tenet” for “Hamid Gul” and ask yourself whether the CIA would have known he was there.

See National Post and Global Post reports.

His fingerprints were all over both 9/11 and 26/11 see: Rediff The man who knows too much.

Best of all, see who the best buddies of the Chinese ambassador in Islamabad are - extract from Daily Mail report:

"Chinese Ambassador His Excellency Liu Jian hosted a dinner at the Marriot Hotel for close Pakistani friends and dignitaries of the diplomatic community residing in the capital. PML (N) leader Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, PML(Q) Chief Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, Chairman Senat Farooq Naik, Governor Khyber Paktoon Khwa Awaois Ghani, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Kazmi, former ISI Chief General Hameed Gul were some of the prominent guests present at the event to welcome Ambassador Liu."

WikiLeaks revelations and Obama's policy on Pakistan

"Even if the Obama Administration did not want to act against Pakistan for killing Indians, one would have expected it to act against Pakistan for contributing to the deaths of US soldiers by assisting the Taliban."
Monday, July 26, 2010

The leakage of nearly 90,000 documents relating to the Afghan war for the period between January 2004 and December 2009 by Wikileaks, a US web site which disseminates secret information of public interest received from whistleblowers after verifying the authenticity of the secret information, could damage the chances of re-election of President Barack Obama in the presidential elections of 2012.

2. The documents cover a period of six years--- five years of the presidency of Mr.George Bush and one year of Mr.Obama. The reaction of the officials of the Obama Administration to the leakage went through three phases. In the first phase, they tried to prevent the secret documents from being brought into the public domain. In the second phase, they grudgingly admitted the seriousness of the facts as disclosed in the leaked documents and sought to absolve the Obama Administration of responsibility for the state of affairs in Afghanistan as revealed in these documents by highlighting the fact that most of these documents related to the period when Mr.Bush was the President.

Only now it has dawned upon them that about 20 per cent of the leaked documents relate to the period since January 2009 when Mr.Obama took over as the President. Even if the vast majority of the documents cover five years of the presidency of Mr.Bush, there will be a legitimate assumption under the law that officials of the Obama Administration---if not Mr.Obama himself--- must have been aware of all this.

3. Yet, the Obama Administration did not take into account this disturbing state of affairs in Afghanistan while formulating its new Af-Pak strategy. This strategy had two aspects. The first was a surge in US troops sent to Afghanistan in an attempt to weaken, if not defeat, the Taliban by the middle of 2011. The second was to integrate Pakistan into this strategy in order to seek its co-operation in the military operations against the Taliban and in restoring stability in Afghanistan.

4. As part of this attempt to integrate Pakistan into this strategy, military and economic assistance amounting to US $ 7.5 billion over a five-year period for Pakistan was got approved by the Congress under the Kerry-Lugar Bill. As the Congress was discussing and approving the Bill, the officials of the Obama Administration were aware of the continuing collusion of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) with the Taliban and the ISI's attempts to de-stabilise the Hamid Karzai Government. They were also aware of the role of the Taliban in the bomb explosion outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul on July 7,2008, in which 58 persons were killed.

5. Despite the availability in the records of the Administration of all this information regarding the deception played by Pakistan on the US, the officials of the Administration persuaded the Congress to pass the Bill. From the comments made by Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, regarding the leaks it is apparent that he has been disturbed by the disclosures regarding Pakistan's collusion with the Taliban made in the leaked documents. The British Broadcasting Corporation has quoted him as saying: "However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America's policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan."

[Pundita note: Kerry has since backpedaled from his strong statement]

6. Mr.Kerry and other members of the Congress who voted increased economic and military assistance for Pakistan might have been unaware of the full details of what Kr.Kerry described as "the reality of America's policy towards Pakistan and Afghanistan." But Mr.Obama and his advisers in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon cannot claim that they too were unaware.

7. What role did the ISI's collusion with the Taliban play in the increasing fatalities suffered by the US troops in Afghanistan? How could the Obama Administration have decided to step up military and economic assistance to Pakistan despite being aware of the "reality" of the ISI's role in helping the Taliban in its operations against the US and NATO troops. Previously, it used to be believed that the ISI was using terrorist organisations only to kill Indian nationals and target Indian interests. The leaked documents clearly indicate that the ISI had been knowingly helping the Taliban, another terrorist organisation, against the troops of the US-led NATO forces and the Afghan Security Forces.

8. Even if the Obama Administration did not want to act against Pakistan for killing Indians, one would have expected it to act against Pakistan for contributing to the deaths of US soldiers by assisting the Taliban. In spite of having and knowing all these details about the ISI-Taliban collusion, the Obama Administration chose not to act. That is the shocking "reality of America's policy towards Pakistan and Afghanistan."

9.As these facts are widely discussed in the US, the credibility of Mr.Obama could be dented and his chances for re-election as the President damaged.

10.The second implication of the Wikileaks should be of concern to the intelligence and security agencies of all countries of the world, including India. That is how did a junior US military analyst posted in Baghdad come to have access to two highly-classified data bases of the US---- one of the Pentagon relating to military developments and the other probably of the US State Department relating to diplomatic developments. He seems to have transferred to compact discs the contents of nearly 200,000 documents from these two data bases. Only 90,000 of these documents relating to military developments in Afghanistan have been disseminated by Wikileaks so far. The contents of the remaining---many of which probably relate to diplomatic developments---- have not been disseminated so far. One does not know why.

11. The action of the junior US analyst in managing to have access to these data-bases and transferring their contents to his CDs shows how insecure the so-called secure data-bases are and how one could break into them. Instead of harassing and prosecuting the analyst, the US agencies should enter into a plea bargain with him by promising no action if he told them how he did this so that the US security agencies could plug the loopholes in their cyber security. ( 27-7-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Tuesday, July 27

Are you calling Amrullah Saleh a liar, Mr Semple?

Due to the efforts of a "pathological liar and paranoid conspiracy theorist," as the Jawa Report calls WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, NATO will have to work all the harder to hand off Afghanistan to Pakistan's regime. Yet with amazing speed a gaggle of Mordor's most dependable defenders cooked up a tactic for dealing with the WikiLeaks Afghan War Logs: Yawn. Nothing to see here folks, move along. (1)

Yes, it turns out everyone on the planet has known forever that the Pakistan military's intelligence branch, ISI, was helping the Taliban fight NATO troops in Afghanistan. As to whether everyone includes the people who signed up to serve their country in Afghanistan and the families of service members that got relatives returned to them in a coffin -- it's not even been 48 hours since the WikiLeaks story broke; let's give the spinners a little breathing room, eh?

But the swiftest are already laying out ways to thread the camel of Realpolitik, Mordor-style, through the needle of public outrage:

> Pakistan's leaders have turned over a new leaf so it's mean to throw history in their face.

> Shoot the messenger.

Not to be bested by the Yawners, and to make sure Harvard's Carr Center has a nag in this race, Michael Semple has cooked up the tactic of casting aspersions on the entire Afghan security apparatus -- although he takes care not to mention the National Directorate of Security by name or its former chief, Amrullah Saleh.

In his op-ed today for the (U.K.) Guardian Semple writes:
[...] I sat in on one of the first national workshops of the Afghan reconciliation commission, headed by former president, Sebghatullah Mojadedi. Provincial police chiefs and governors and other officials split into small groups to discuss the causes of ongoing conflict. Encouraged by Mojadedi himself, every single working group fed back the conclusion that Pakistani ISI interference was the prime cause of conflict in the country.

This was more an article of faith than an empirical finding. Assembled Afghan officialdom simply worked on the basis that Pakistan had supported the Taliban, was opposed to the post-Taliban set-up and must be behind any resistance to this new setup.

In an even more blatant fashion, while visiting one of the Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan I asked the provincial intelligence chief to explain his role. He described his main function as being to inculcate in the people of the province a belief that Pakistan could never tolerate a stable Afghanistan, so that they would always be on their guard to check ISI interference.

The point is that Afghanistan and Pakistan are countries with a complex history of interdependence. [...]
Uh, I think he means Britain and Pakistan have a complex history. It's so complex that the United Kingdom is home to the largest Pakistani diaspora, after the one in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Mr Semple does finally allow that where there's smoke there might be a struck match on occasion:
Most Taliban I have talked to regarding the role of Pakistan make three broad points. They say that they require some degree of official blessing to be able to operate from Pakistan. They say that this blessing is never assured – it is an uncomfortable relationship. And they say that any solution to the insurgency must have Pakistan's blessing.
Of course a regime that has done nothing but wreak havoc on Afghanistan should not be the decider about when they'll call off their dogs, but Mr Semple seems to have a dislike for tediously obvious facts.

His bio at the Carr website notes:
... a leading expert on the Taliban, the Pashtun tribes and Afghan politics. He has worked in Afghanistan since 1989, most recently as Deputy to the EU Special Representative for Afghanistan, and has inter-acted with leading figures in the succession of Afghan regimes, and the different armed movements which have campaigned against them. He is recognized internationally as a key proponent of political approaches to dealing with the conflict in Afghanistan, including “talking to the Taliban”. His experience as development worker, political officer and conflict negotiator give him an unparalleled network into most elements of Afghan and Pakistani society. ...
Then perhaps he was in Afghanistan or Pakistan in September 2006 and so missed the bombshell Britain's Ministry of Defense dropped:
A meeting at Chequers yesterday between President Musharraf and Tony Blair was overshadowed by a leaked Ministry of Defence document that suggested Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency was supporting the Taliban. The BBC also quoted the document as saying: "Pakistan is not currently stable but on the edge of chaos."

Gen Musharraf angrily denied the allegations. "I totally, 200%, reject it," he said. "ISI is a disciplined force, breaking the back of al-Qaida."

Downing Street reassured him that the leaked document "did not reflect the views of the government", while the MoD tried to play down the importance of the paper, saying it was merely research notes and did not represent official policy. ...
The MoD had no other choice but to play down their research just because its conclusions were not part of government policy. But at least the British public had been clearly warned by an official source that Pakistan was double-dealing with NATO. The American public received no such compassion from the U.S. Department of Defense.

To summarize all the above: I don't know whether Assange is a pathological liar and a paranoid conspiracy theorist but if he is, I wonder if Jawa Report's Rusty Shackleford, who's also received the WikiLeaks revelations with a yawn, has considered the implications. When it comes to the point where the only way to get vital security concerns onto the TV news is through the efforts of a nutter, the society is broken.

1) The Small Wars Journal sampling of the Yawners includes Bill Roggio of Long War Journal. Yes, allegations in WikiLeaks documents about the ISI-Taliban connection are old news to Bill and his readers. But Bill isn't yawning. SWJ took his remarks out of context when one considers his closing remarks in the post SWJ links to. Bill wrote:
... there is criticism of some of the intelligence reports [in the WikiLeaks papers] as some of the information has originated from Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, which has viewed Pakistan as driving the violence in Afghanistan. This is a specious argument. As the NYT points out, there are specific attacks in Afghanistan that can be matched with intelligence reports that were written prior to the time the attacks were executed.

Afghan government questions U.S. silence over Pakistani regime's support for Taliban

"How come you give to one country $11 billion or more as help for reconstruction or strengthen its security or defensive forces, but from other side the very forces train terrorism?"

July 27, 2010
(Reuters) - The United States has pursued a contradictory policy with regard to the Afghan war by ignoring Pakistan's role in the insurgency, the Afghan government said on Tuesday, following the leak of U.S. military documents.

The classified documents released by the organization, WikiLeaks, show current and former members of Pakistan's spy agency were actively collaborating with the Taliban in plotting attacks in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, in its first reaction to the leak, Afghanistan's National Security Council said the United States had failed to attack the patrons and supporters of the Taliban hiding in Pakistan throughout the nine-year conflict.

"With regret ... our allies did not show necessary attention about the external support for the international terrorists ... for the regional stability and global security," the council said in a statement.

Afghanistan has long blamed Pakistan for meddling in its affairs, accusing the neighbor of plotting attacks to destabilize it. Islamabad, which has had longstanding ties to the Taliban, denies involvement in the insurgency and says it is a victim of militancy itself.

The National Security Council did not name Pakistan, but said use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy was a dangerous gamble and had to be stopped.

"Having a contradictory and vague policy against the forces who use terrorism as a tool for interference and sabotage against others, have had devastating results," it said.

At a news conference later on Tuesday, council head Rangeen Dadfar Spanta was more specific, questioning the billions of dollars in cash aid and military assistance Washington has given to Pakistan over the years.

"It is really not justifiable for the Afghan people that how come you give to one country $11 billion or more as help for reconstruction or strengthen its security or defensive forces, but from other side the very forces train terrorism," he said.

He warned that the war would not succeed unless there was a review of Afghan policy by Washington that focuses on Taliban sanctuaries and bases in Pakistan and their supporters.

Those supporting militants should be punished rather than be treated as an ally, said Spanta, who served for years as foreign minister in President Hamid Karzai's government until last year. [...]

Monday, July 26

U.S. support for Pakistan's military aiding conditions for Castro-style revolution in Pakistan

Hakeemullah Mehsud, commander of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)

The revolutionary fervor that overtook Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista's regime is building in Pakistan. And the driving force is not religious fundamentalism but the plight of Pakistan's poor and their growing resentment of the country's military elite.

The Pakistan military's propaganda machine is so effective that observers outside the country still believe Pakistani civilians venerate the military. Times are changing fast, according to a startling report from Pakistani journalist Adnan R. Khan for the Canadian newsmagazine, Maclean's. In Land of the Generals Khan writes:
[T]he Pakistani military continues to target some Islamic groups, including Pakistan’s homegrown version of the Taliban in the country’s Tribal Areas. ... That none of this does anything to alleviate Pakistan’s deep-rooted social problems is something the militants have learned to capitalize on, and indeed use as a powerful recruiting tool.

In a recent video message released by the Pakistani Taliban, its spokesman, Tariq Azim, referred to the “unholy army” and its wilful betrayal of Pakistan’s poor. Militants regularly point to government and military corruption as a basic reason for their insurgency.

“The militants have caught on,” says one foreign aid worker, requesting anonymity for fear of an army backlash. “Their arguments strike a chord with the poor and disenfranchised. To be honest, they sound like Che Guevara railing against the American-backed elites in Cuba. They’re revolutionary and it’s just too bad that they are the only ones speaking out against the injustices entrenched in the Pakistani system.” ...
I have a bad feeling that parallels between Batista's Cuba and present-day Pakistan extend to the U.S. not appreciating the hatred building among the poor against the military class:
“There is a fundamental disconnect here,” says Aasim Sajjad, an assistant professor at the National Institute of Pakistan Studies in Islamabad. “The army claims to be the protectors of Islam in Pakistan but then they receive money from the U.S. to fight fellow Muslims.”
Pakistan’s military remains largely unchecked, in a country where democracy remains weak, and where a dominant ethos persists that places the defence establishment, which has ruled the country for half of its 63-year-existence, above all other political and judicial institutions.

According to Ayesha Siddiqa, author of the controversial book Military Inc., which digs into the Pakistan army’s burgeoning economic interests -- a consequence of the years they have spent in power -- Pakistan’s military leaders and others have internalized the perception that democracy can’t work in Pakistan, and the army is the only institution truly committed to ensuring the Pakistani interest.

“The generals genuinely believe they know better than anyone else what’s best for Pakistan,” Sajjad says. “They have become a social class unto themselves, the dominant social class in Pakistan, who possess an inordinate amount of power and money.”

In Gujranwala, locals refer to the top generals, the corps commanders, as “crore” commanders -- a reference to their accumulated wealth (one crore in the subcontinent is the equivalent of 10 million rupees, or $120,000). According to Siddiqa, a senior general’s net worth averages around $1.7 million.
Khan goes on to explain another factor fueling resentment against the military: their image as the invincible protector of the people has been chipped away by the large number of terrorist attacks against Pakistani civilians. He also notes the huge government bailouts that the bloated military receives.

I'd guess there are two additional factors that make Pakistani civilians less willing these days to tolerate the military's pashas:

* The military's business enterprises, many of which are unprofitable but are propped up by the government (see Khan's report) are coming up against stiff competition from the country's increasingly globalized business class.

* As modern types of businesses proliferate in the largest cities, the military is no longer seen as the only route to success for those outside the feudal high caste elite.

The first factor suggests that help for a 'people's revolution' against the military could receive support from many Pakistani businesspeople, as happened in the revolution against the Shah in Iran.

With regard to the second factor, caste designations in Pakistan pertain mostly to trades that were last updated in the Middle Ages. The explosion in the types of vocations brought about the modern era in technology and trade have opened up myriad business opportunities for the well educated in Pakistan.

Yet Pakistan's small tax base (small because the government doesn't enforce tax collection) combined with rampant corruption guarantee that country's poor stay at the bottom of the heap. If you saw the New York Times report on Pakistan's tax issues I linked to recently, you might recall that the refusal to pay taxes isn't confined to the elite. The article revealed that Pakistan's 'lawyer class' are also famous tax dodgers. Yes, those are the same lawyers who periodically march in the streets demanding more democracy and more help for the poor.

The situation is an oft-told story around the world; recall the large gap between Thailand's rural poor and urban middle class. But the difference is that Pakistan has a large number of poor people who are trained in insurgency tactics and suicide missions, and who are already veterans of guerrilla warfare.

So, with every other route to upward mobility closed off, revolution is the only available path and one that would have a good chance of succeeding in Pakistan.

I don't see the revolution happening tomorrow. But NATO's policy toward Pakistan's military since the Afghanistan War is accelerating conditions in the country that would make it ripe for revolution. This observation is particularly true with regard to U.S. policy.

Washington has gone all out to support Pakistan's military and, with an eye to tamping down unrest and anti-American feelings in the country, attempted to play the role of benefactor to Pakistanis. But the more Washington supports Pakistan's military, the more it reinforces the military's abuse of power, which fuels the very conditions in the country the U.S. is trying to ward off. This kind of situation is known as having a tiger by the tail.

How does one deal with a tiger once having gotten hold of its tail? The first step, which is often overlooked, is to let go of the tail.

Afghans say, 'I told you so' after WikiLeak papers point to Pak military's support for Taliban

Pakistani, American, British and European propaganda machines have been so effective in covering up the true situation in Afghanistan that Afghan joy some truth is finally emerging in the Western mainstream media about Pakistan's designs on Afghanistan will shock many: If the Afghans think this way of Pakistan's government, why do the U.S. and other ISAF parties keep trying to ram Pakistan down Afghanistan's throat?
Afghans React to Leaks With Jubilation

By Maria Abi-Habib
Wall Street Journal
July 26, 2010

The mood among Afghans over leaked U.S. documents outlining Pakistan’s collaboration with the Taliban wasn’t one of surprise Monday but jubilation.

For many Afghans, it was an “I told you so” moment after lawmakers have pointed to Pakistan for nearly a decade as a main source of support for the Taliban.

But what Afghan President Hamid Karzai does with this moment is what matters most, say parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai and Gen. Zahir Azimi, the spokesman for the defense ministry. “This is a golden opportunity for Karzai. He can now say ‘we told you all along’ to NATO and demand more support and funding,” Mrs. Barakzai says.

Mr. Karzai’s faith in the U.S.-led war here is wavering and his confrontational approach to Pakistan has been ditched for softer words of late. Afghan officials say Mr. Karzai is trying to forge a better relationship with Pakistan, worried about coalition forces withdrawing from Afghanistan while the Taliban insurgency strengthens.

But the leaked documents, which show the U.S. is aware of Pakistan’s support to the Taliban, may see Mr. Karzai return to his hard-line approach by bolstering his past claims of Pakistani interference, lawmakers say.

The documents, lawmakers and cabinet ministers hope, will also publicly embarrass the U.S. and force them to take a tougher approach with Pakistan after donating billions of dollars in exchange for Pakistan’s help in the war on terror.

“Everyone here knows that a lot of U.S. aid money for Pakistan to build schools or hospitals never gets delivered, but goes to work against the U.S. in Afghanistan,” Mrs. Barakzai said.

Groveling Song in the Key of C

Whereupon President Barack Obama, leader of the world's most powerful nation, and Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the world's most powerful military, prepare for an audience with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army......


"Fwhat key? B Fwat?"

"Fno. C."

"Fokay. Fready?"

"Fwait. [coughs] Mi mi mi mi. [toots C on the harmonica] Okay, fready."

"O Dear Feneral Kfayani!
Fwe don't deserve the honor when you walk across our back!
O feneral of fenerals!
Fwe are overcome with graftitude fwhen you boot us in the ass!
Fwe're not worthy to grovel at your precious fweet
But if we're to kfeep covering ffor you
Could you kick out ffewer of our teeth?"

WikiLeak Afghan War Papers: Pity the White House spin machine

Well, here it is 3:30 AM in Washington, DC. Nobody in this town who has to render an opinion for a living is getting any sleep. Me, I'm awake only because I'm suffering from irrational exuberance since seeing the New York Times headline last night about the leaked papers: Pakistan Aids Insurgency in Afghanistan, Reports Assert. Finally a report about the White House mollycoddling of Pakistan that the TV and cable networks can't bury.

But consider the plight of the White House. They're already dizzy trying to strike just the right tone about the papers, and it's not even been eight hours since the story broke. At this rate they'll need to mainline Dramamine by noon.

Obama is "furious" the papers were leaked. However, the White House also wants us to know the information in the leaked logs shows it's good thing he took so long to decide about the troop surge. But then there is Pakistan's regime to consider:
White House National Security Advisor James Jones issued a statement to reporters shortly before the documents were posted online, saying the leaks were “irresponsible” but would not impact US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security,” Jones said in his statement.

“These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people.”
Jeepers, has Jones read some of the stuff in those papers? And reporters are just getting started on plowing through the 90,000 or so pages of the logs.

Senator John Kerry -- a dyed in the wool Democrat and Obama supporter -- took one look at a few of the revelations in the papers and came out with his own statement:
“However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent.”
They'll have to do a lot of calibrating to explain to the American public how come the White House allowed Pakistan's ISI/ military to help kill and maim American troops, then sent Hillary Clinton to Pakistan with 500 million bucks in aid and the pledge of BFF.

Trying to blame all this on Bush isn't going to work because of the large number of American casualties in Afghanistan since Obama took office. So if Obama knew what was going on, which he admitted he did by saying the problem with Pakistan was just why he took so long to decide on a troop surge last year, then what's the excuse? 'We had to let the Pakistan military help the Taliban blow up our boys because we needed to truck NATO supplies through their country?'

So you see the difficulties with hitting just the right note for tonight's newscasts. Like trying to play 3-D chess in the middle of a six-lane highway at rush hour.

Sunday, July 25

Afghan War version of Pentagon Papers released

In these documents, Iran's and Pakistan's intelligence agencies run riot. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is linked to some of the war's most notorious commanders. The ISI is alleged to have sent 1,000 motorbikes to the warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani for suicide attacks in Khost and Logar provinces, and to have been implicated in a sensational range of plots, from attempting to assassinate President Hamid Karzai to poisoning the beer supply of western troops. These reports are unverifiable and could be part of a barrage of false information provided by Afghan intelligence. But yesterday's White House response to the claims that elements of the Pakistan army had been so specifically linked to the militants made it plain that the status quo is unacceptable. It said that safe havens for militants within Pakistan continued to pose "an intolerable threat" to US forces.
-- Guardian

H/T John Batchelor Show. Needless to say the political fallout from these leaked papers is going to be huge. From WikiLeaks summary, 25th July 2010 5:00 PM EST
WikiLeaks has released a document set called the Afghan War Diary (AWD), an extraordinary compendium of over 91,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010. The reports, while written by soldiers and intelligence officers mainly describing lethal military actions involving the United States military, also include intelligence information, reports of meetings with political figures, and related detail. [...]
See here for the rest of the summary and links to the logs.

WikiLeaks turned to three newspapers -- (U.K.) Guardian, (Germany's) Spiegel Online, and the New York Times for help in a collaborative effort in sorting through the mountain of data and removing information that could be betray troop positions, identities of informants, and so on.(1)

Now all three news outlets have published their first report on the leaked war logs. Here are links to the reports from Spiegel and the Guardian. Below are the opening paragraphs in the New York Times article:
Pakistan Aids Insurgency in Afghanistan, Reports Assert
By MARK MAZZETTI, JANE PERLEZ, ERIC SCHMITT and ANDREW W. LEHREN with additional reporting by Carlotta Gall
Published: July 25, 2010

Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harbored strong suspicions that Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants, according to a trove of secret military field reports made public Sunday.

The documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.

Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul.

Much of the information — raw intelligence and threat assessments gathered from the field in Afghanistan— cannot be verified and likely comes from sources aligned with Afghan intelligence, which considers Pakistan an enemy, and paid informants. Some describe plots for attacks that do not appear to have taken place.

But many of the reports rely on sources that the military rated as reliable.

While current and former American officials interviewed could not corroborate individual reports, they said that the portrait of the spy agency’s collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.

Some of the reports describe Pakistani intelligence working alongside Al Qaeda to plan attacks. Experts cautioned that although Pakistan’s militant groups and Al Qaeda work together, directly linking the Pakistani spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, with Al Qaeda is difficult.

The records also contain firsthand accounts of American anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to confront insurgents who launched attacks near Pakistani border posts, moved openly by the truckload across the frontier, and retreated to Pakistani territory for safety.

The behind-the-scenes frustrations of soldiers on the ground and glimpses of what appear to be Pakistani skullduggery contrast sharply with the frequently rosy public pronouncements of Pakistan as an ally by American officials, looking to sustain a drone campaign over parts of Pakistani territory to strike at Qaeda havens. Administration officials also want to keep nuclear-armed Pakistan on their side to safeguard NATO supplies flowing on routes that cross Pakistan to Afghanistan.
1) Update 11:35 PM EDT: From what one of Batchelor's sources just said it could be that accusations will surface that the redactions were not sufficient to protect the identity of the troops. If so we'll be hearing a lot more about this angle. Also, speculation is that Pakistan's military is gearing up to accuse the U.S. government of leaking the documents -- a preposterous claim -- and of course preparing to deny everything that reflects badly on them in the war logs.

Los Zetas drug cartel seizes control of two U.S. ranches in Laredo, TX

The blogger at McNorman sent me this story yesterday and has posted at her blog about it here. How in God's name did a Mexican cartel take over the ranches? Her update makes this point:
Understand that Texas is unlike most states. You might not see your neighbors for weeks because some of these ranches are located in very remote and inhospitable areas. The large ranches, particularly those that are reestablishing animal populations or native ecosystems are huge. Some as large as 30,000 acres. The only thing that sits between the US and Mexico is the river. The only surveillance that is available is a BP helicopter that makes rounds. That is it.

What sank the Cheonan? Pundita channels Solomon to find an answer.

Fish Tale
Doubts surface on North Korea's role in ship sinking
July 23, 2010
by Barbara Demick and John M. Glionna
Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2010

Some in South Korea dispute the official version of events: that a North Korean torpedo ripped apart the Cheonan.

Reporting from Seoul — The way U.S. officials see it, there's little mystery behind the most notorious shipwreck in recent Korean history.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calls the evidence "overwhelming" that the Cheonan, a South Korean warship that sank in March, was hit by a North Korean torpedo. Vice President Joe Biden has cited the South Korean-led panel investigating the sinking as a model of transparency.

But challenges to the official version of events are coming from an unlikely place: within South Korea.

Armed with dossiers of their own scientific studies and bolstered by conspiracy theories, critics dispute the findings announced May 20 by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, which pointed a finger at Pyongyang.

They also question why Lee made the announcement nearly two months after the ship's sinking, on the very day campaigning opened for fiercely contested local elections. Many accuse the conservative leader of using the deaths of 46 sailors to stir up anti-communist sentiment and sway the vote.

The critics, mostly but not all from the opposition, say it is unlikely that the impoverished North Korean regime could have pulled off a perfectly executed hit against a superior military power, sneaking a submarine into the area and slipping away without detection. They also wonder whether the evidence of a torpedo attack was misinterpreted, or even fabricated.

"I couldn't find the slightest sign of an explosion," said Shin Sang-chul, a former shipbuilding executive-turned-investigative journalist. "The sailors drowned to death. Their bodies were clean. We didn't even find dead fish in the sea."

Shin, who was appointed to the joint investigative panel by the opposition Democratic Party, inspected the damaged ship with other experts April 30. He was removed from the panel shortly afterward, he says, because he had voiced a contrary opinion: that the Cheonan hit ground in the shallow water off the Korean peninsula and then damaged its hull trying to get off a reef.

"It was the equivalent of a simple traffic accident at sea," Shin said.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that Shin was removed because of "limited expertise, a lack of objectivity and scientific logic," and that he was "intentionally creating public mistrust" in the investigation.
Kim Myong Chol plays Nero Wolfe

Shin wasn't the only one to question the official version of the Cheonan's sinking. On May 5 a well-known 'unofficial' spokesman for North Korea's regime, Kim Myong Chol, penned an op-ed for the Asia Times in which he made four arguments:
...Fact 1. North Korean submarines are not stealthy enough to penetrate heavily guarded South Korean waters at night and remain undetected by the highly touted anti-submarine warfare units of the American and South Korean forces. A North Korean submarine would be unable to outmaneuver an awesome array of high-tech Aegis warships, identify the corvette Cheonan and then slice it in two with a torpedo before escaping unscathed, leaving no trace of its identity.

Fact 2. The sinking took place not in North Korean waters but well inside tightly guarded South Korean waters, where a slow-moving North Korean submarine would have great difficulty operating covertly and safely, unless it was equipped with AIP (air-independent propulsion) technology.

Fact 2: The disaster took place precisely in the waters where what the Pentagon has called "one of the world's largest simulated exercises" was underway. This war exercise, known as "Key Resolve/Foal Eagle" did not end on March 18 as was reported but actually ran from March 18 to April 30.

Fact 3: The Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercise on the West Sea near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) was aimed at keeping a more watchful eye on North Korea as well as training for the destruction of weapons of mass destruction in the North. It involved scores of shiny, ultra-modern US and South Korean warships equipped with the latest technology.

Among the fleet were four Aegis ships: the USS Shiloh (CG-67), a 9,600-ton Ticonderoga class cruiser, the USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54), a 6,800-ton Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, the USS Lassen, a 9,200-ton Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer and Sejong the Great, a 8,500-ton South Korean guided-missile destroyer.

The four surface ships are the most important assets of the two navies, and have multi-mission platforms capable of conducting various tasks, such as anti-submarine warfare. There is every likelihood that they were supported by nuclear-powered US submarines and a South Korean "Type 214" submarine that uses AIP technology.
Fact 4: Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said on March 30 that he doubted there was North Korean involvement in the sinking: "Obviously the full investigation needs to go forward. But to my knowledge, there's no reason to believe or to be concerned that that may have been the cause."
However, being a mouthpiece for Pyongyang and all, Kim couldn't resist using the arguments to grandstand against the United States, take a jab at U.S. weapons technology, and concoct a theory on the Cheonan sinking (it was friendly fire incident) that made the U.S. and ROK look like bumblers who then engaged in an elaborate cover-up.

But interestingly, it was not long after Kim's article appeared that the mysterious North Korean attack sub became described as a "mini-sub" -- a superdooper midget that could sneak around undetected by even the most sophisticated anti-submarine sensors on the planet.

Kim whips out a magnifying glass

Kim Myong Chol scored again in a May 26 op-ed for the Asia Times, in which he zeroed in on a piece of evidence produced by the ROK-led international team that investigated the Cheonan sinking:
... The investigation team produced what it termed "conclusive evidence": the eye-catching hand-written Korean markings "ilbon" or "No 1" in English found on the propulsion section of the used torpedo allegedly recovered from the sea bed.

This turns out to be most inconclusive and counter-productive, calling into serious question the credibility of the findings. The use of "ilbon" in Korean script - not in Chinese characters - may look like North Korean writing, which is distinctly different from what is written in South Korea. But native North Koreans use "ilho" for the English "No 1". "Ilbon" is what South Koreans would use, although North Korean street addresses more often than often not do contain numerals like "ilbon".
He gilded the lily by adding, "A likely theory for this blunder is the sense on the part of the investigators that there was an absence of hard evidence to impress a skeptical South Korean and world audience."

Those whom the gods of detection would destroy they first raise up

But after making sensible points, on June 4 Kim forged ahead and shot himself in the foot with a howler titled Pyongyang: Cheonan was false-flag sinking. The Asia Times decided to play the fool, but this time made sure to note right underneath Kim's byline that he was an "unofficial" spokesman for Pyongyang. Kim reported that the crack Chinese naval intelligence unit had done their own investigation and pieced together that the Cheonan sinking was an American act of sabotage. But out of the goodness of their hearts, rather than get up and announce this great embarrassment for the United States they leaked the findings to two highly authoritative American websites: Wayne Madsen's Report and New America Media, "a California-based website that is the US's largest coalition of ethnic media with over 2,500 partners." I hope the Marvel Comics website didn't feel slighted.

So what sank the Cheonan?

If Shin Sang-chul is correct -- if no dead fish were found in the waters around the vessel -- I don't see how an explosion could have sunk the Cheonan.

However, if the writing on the torpedo fragment was embellished a bit by the South Korean investigation team, they can join the millions of police since the dawn of the criminal justice system who wanted to make sure a case held up in court because they felt certain the accused was guilty.

In other words if there was embellishment, it does not automatically follow that Seoul plotted to start a war with Pyongyang. I can see how the South Korean government would want terribly to believe that such an awful event was the work of evil intentions and not a prosaic accident.

As the history of detective work tells us, the will to believe is a detective's worst enemy. But if South Korean officials blinded themselves to certain facts in the case, China's government kicked the South Korean people when they were down by trying to make hay from a national tragedy.

The Koreans on both sides of the DMZ have suffered enough from the remnants of an old proxy war between China and the United States. If the sinking of the Cheonan reminds the world of this, the tragedy will have launched a new era on the Korean peninsula, a better era.

Friday, July 23

Conga Line of Doom: Indian officials need to attend Al-Anon meetings before signing any more MOUs with USA

Al-Anon, for those unfamiliar with the name, is an international organization that helps the relatives of family members who are addicts. Many relatives of addicts unwittingly 'enable' the addict in myriad ways; for an alcoholic, giving into his pleas for money to purchase just enough alcohol to stave off the physical agony of withdrawal symptoms; for a gambling addict, giving into his pleas to pay off his debt to a loan shark so the shark doesn't kill him.

Al-Anon practically invented the term 'tough love' to help family members deal with the cunning of a desperate addict in their midst. The Al-Anon message to relatives of an addict is also very tough: The family member's first step to getting the addicted relative to accept real help is to recognize the co-dependent aspect of repeatedly allowing an addict to wreak havoc on his own family.

The destructive situation of a family held hostage by an addicted relative is finding unfortunate parallels in the Indian government's deepening relationship with the U.S. one. Washington is grabbing onto Delhi as a means to stave off making significant changes in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

Technically the U.S. is not 'addicted' to Pakistan yet the net effect of the relationship is that of an addiction. And the U.S. is now asking India for help so it can keep enabling Pakistan's military, and because India is going along with this request, it's becoming an enabler. Meanwhile the Pakistani military is enabling terrorist groups inside Pakistan.

So what we have here is a kind of conga line of co-dependents, with people wearing suicide vests instead of party leis bringing up the rear.

India has already done itself enough damage for one day by going ahead on Friday and signing a memorandum of understanding with the USA before obtaining vital agreements from the U.S. on key points. The MOU pertains to the joint Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative. "The initiative will expand collaboration on counterterrorism, information sharing and capacity building. The initiative looks at closer working arrangements on transportation security; money laundering; maritime, port and border security; cybersecurity; and mega-city policing."

Yet the U.S. "virtually" rejected India's demand for a monitoring mechanism on U.S. aid being given to Pakistan's military for the fight against terror. This, despite the fact that:
... The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said that there are concerns about “the links the ISI has” [with terrorist groups]. He admitted that there is a lot about the Pakistani spy agency that the US does not know and added that the matter is being taken up in all “engagements” that the US has with Pakistan.

This comes after the Indian government revealed that there is fresh evidence to show the ISI and LeT [terror organization[ planned and executed the terror attack in Mumbai together.[...]
I'm not joking when I say that someone needs to send Al-Anon literature to India's ministry of defense and do this 'yesterday.'

So what if Kayani gets along with al Qaeda? We get along with Kayani!

United States National Security Council in session

In a move backed by the United States, Pakistan's prime minister extended by three years the term of the army's chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who does double duty as Pakistan's top decision-maker on all defense-related matters.

The U.S. National Security Council wanted Kayani to stay on at his post because they're familiar with him and get along with him. However, Kayani in charge means China, not the USA, gets top priority; this, despite the estimated $1 billion the USA forks over annually to Pakistan's armed forces to fight terrorists on America's behalf. Here, from counterterrorism expert B. Raman, is how the arrangement works out in practice:
...[Kayani] has a good equation with the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army of China and has further strengthened the military-military relationship with the PLA.

The past relations, which were focused on the two armies and air forces, have now been expanded to focus more on the two Navies. The joint counter-terrorism exercises between the two armies have practically become joint counter-Uighur exercises, with China increasingly relying on the Pakistani security forces for putting down the revolt of the Uighurs in the Xinjiang province.

While he has been reluctant to act against Al Qaeda and its associates in North Waziristan, he has not hesitated to act against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which poses a threat to China.[...]
The New York Times adds this howler:
The Americans have praised General Kayani for his army’s campaigns against the Pakistani Taliban but, behind the scenes, the Americans have been disappointed with the general’s failure to disown the Afghan Taliban, who benefit from sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The NSC and U.S. military command are "disappointed?" Disappointment is when the babysitter doesn't show. Disappointment is when your football team loses. When the U.S. taxpayer is helping Pakistan's military deal with its own insurgency, stage joint operations with China's regime, shield al Qaeda, and use Taliban proxies to fight American troops in Afghanistan, this is not cause for disappointment. This is cause for swift and strong remedial action that dispenses with the finger-wagging stage.

Amrullah Saleh versus Mordor

In his speeches Saleh recounts Taliban brutalities: busloads of laborers lined up and executed, young men chopped in half with axes, women and children slain before their families. His rhetoric is harshly critical of Pakistan.

"The Taliban have reached the gates of Kabul," he said.

The following Washington Post report contains a few deceptive passages. Together, they convey the impression that it was Hamid Karzai's idea to negotiate with the Taliban, and that the U.S. and other NATO regimes were merely innocent bystanders to this idea.

That's not what happened. Karzai was quietly pressured by NATO to negotiate with Taliban since at least as early as 2007. And as I've pointed out more than once on this blog, when he didn't move fast enough the British regime went behind his back and made plans to set up secret camps to train Taliban fighters. The British regime overlooked Afghanistan's very effective secret service, headed by Amrullah Saleh, which caught them red-handed.

Innocent bystanders, my foot. The NATO regimes involved in Afghanistan just got scared, that's all, when rumors started flying that Karzai was negotiating with an al Qaeda-affiliated Taliban terrorist group. That was one story that couldn't be kept quiet. So now the regimes are hastening to assure voters that they would never support such negotiations.

Please, no letters asking why I'm now calling NATO governments, including my own, "regimes." What do you want me to call them? Pieces of shit? They betrayed their own troops out of fear that if they didn't kowtow to Pakistan's regime there would be large-scale terrorist attacks in their countries, and because the U.S. regime wanted to keep Pakistan's as a strategic asset.

The NATO countries should have confronted the downsides of their policies on Pakistan a long time ago -- downsides which include the Pakistani regime's support for the Taliban 'insurgency' in Afghanistan.

And now NATO wants Afghanistan to bear the brunt of their leftover problem from the Cold War. Amrullah Saleh says 'No.'
Minority leaders leaving Karzai's side over leader's overtures to insurgents
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
July 23, 2010

PANJSHIR VALLEY, AFGHANISTAN -- The man who served as President Hamid Karzai's top intelligence official for six years has launched an urgent campaign to warn Afghans that their leader has lost conviction in the fight against the Taliban and is recklessly pursuing a political deal with insurgents.

In speeches to small groups in Kabul and across northern Afghanistan over the past month, Amarullah Saleh has repeated his belief that Karzai's push for negotiation with insurgents is a fatal mistake and a recipe for civil war. He says Karzai's chosen policy endangers the fitful progress of the past nine years in areas such as democracy and women's rights.

"If I don't raise my voice we are headed towards a crisis," he told a gathering of college students in Kabul.

That view is shared by a growing number of Afghan minority leaders who once participated fully in Karzai's government, but now feel alienated from it. Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek politicians have expressed increasing concern that they are being marginalized by Karzai and his efforts to strike a peace deal with his fellow Pashtuns in the insurgency.

Saleh's warnings come as the United States struggles to formulate its own position on reconciliation with the Taliban. While U.S. officials have supported Afghan government-led talks in theory, they have watched with apprehension as Karzai has pursued his own peace initiatives, seemingly without Western involvement.

NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, Ambassador Mark Sedwill, cautioned recently that "any political reconciliation process has to be genuinely national and genuinely inclusive. Otherwise we're simply storing up the next set of problems that will break out. And in this country when problems break out, they tend to lead to violence."

Still, with war costs and casualties rising, U.S. policymakers are increasingly looking for a way out, and a power-sharing deal between Karzai and the Taliban may be the best they can hope for. One senior NATO official in Kabul described Saleh as "brilliant." But the official said Saleh's hard-line stance against negotiations does not offer any path to ending the long-running U.S. war.

Saleh, 38 and a Tajik, began his intelligence career in this scenic valley north of Kabul working for the legendary guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. He said he is not motivated by ethnic rivalries with the majority Pashtuns or by a desire to undermine Karzai, whom he describes as a decent man and a patriot.

Rather, Saleh said he wants to use nonviolent, grass-roots organizing to pressure the government into a harder line against the Taliban by showing that Afghans who do not accept the return of the Taliban are a formidable force. Saleh resigned last month as director of the National Directorate of Security after he said he realized that Karzai no longer valued his advice.

"The Taliban have reached the gates of Kabul," Saleh said. "We will not stop this movement even if it costs our blood."

Proceeding carefully

Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar declined to comment on Saleh's analysis. Karzai's government has made reconciliation a top priority, and officials say they are proceeding carefully. Karzai has invited Taliban leaders to talk, but he has said insurgents must accept the constitution, renounce violence and sever their links to foreign terrorists before they can rejoin society.

Those conditions do little to mollify Afghan minority leaders, many of whom had backed Karzai in the past but are now breaking with the president. Some are concerned that a deal between Karzai and the Taliban could spawn the sort of civil war that existed in Afghanistan prior to the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

"The new political path that Karzai has chosen will not only destroy him, it will destroy the country. It's a kind of suicide," said Mohammad Mohaqiq, a Hazara leader and former Karzai ally.

With the defection of Saleh and the transfer of another Tajik, Bismillah Khan, from his position as chief of army staff to interior minister, Karzai critics see an erosion of strong anti-Taliban views within the government. Khan, many argue, was more important to the war effort in his army post than at the interior ministry, which oversees the police.

"Now Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks, they are not partners in Karzai's government, they are just employees," said Saleh Mohammad Registani, a Tajik parliament member from the Panjshir. "Karzai wants to use them as symbols."

To spread his message, Saleh has sought out young, educated students and university graduates. Through them he intends to form groups across the country to apply grass-roots political pressure. His aims are nonviolent, he said, and not intended to further ethnic divisions, but he has said they must prepare for the worst.

Saleh was born in the Panjshir Valley before the family moved to Kabul. He joined the armed opposition, or mujahideen, rather than be conscripted into the Afghan army and in 1997 started as an intelligence officer with Massoud's forces.

Saleh was appointed to run Afghanistan's fledgling intelligence service in 2004, and developed a reputation among U.S. officials as one of the most effective and honest cabinet ministers.

In Saleh's view, Karzai's shift from fighting to accommodating the Taliban began last August. The messy aftermath of the presidential election, in which Karzai prevailed but was widely accused of electoral fraud, was taken as a personal insult, Saleh said.

"It was very abrupt, it was not a process," Saleh said of Karzai's changing views. "He thought he was hurt by democracy and by the Americans. He felt he should have won with dignity."

Frayed relations

After the election, Afghan relations with the United States plunged to new lows, as Karzai railed against Western interference in his government and threatened to join the Taliban. Saleh said Karzai believes that the United States and NATO cannot prevail in Afghanistan and will soon depart. For that reason he has shifted his attention to Pakistan, which is thought to hold considerable sway over elements of the insurgency, in an attempt to broker a deal with the Taliban.

"We are heading toward settlement. Democracy is dying," Saleh said. He recalled Karzai saying, "'I've given everybody a chance to defeat the Taliban. It's been nine years. Where is the victory?'"

In his speeches, Saleh recounts Taliban brutalities: busloads of laborers lined up and executed, young men chopped in half with axes, women and children slain before their families. His rhetoric is harshly critical of Pakistan.

"All the goals you have will collapse if the Taliban comes back," he told a gathering of college students under a tent outside his house in Kabul. "I don't want your university to be closed just because of a political deal. It will be closed if we do not raise our voices."

Saleh believes the Taliban will not abide by a peaceful power-sharing deal because they want to regain total authority. Despite a significant U.S. troop buildup this year and major NATO offensives, he estimated that insurgents now control more than 30 percent of Afghanistan. He said the Taliban leadership -- about 200 people, many of them in the Pakistani city of Karachi -- are financed, armed and protected by Pakistan's intelligence agency. "The inner circle is totally under their control," Saleh said. Pakistan has long denied it supports the Taliban.

The second ring of Taliban leadership -- about 1,700 field commanders -- oversees a fighting force of 10,000 to 30,000 people, depending on the season, Saleh said. Under former NATO commander Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, 700 of these Taliban commanders were captured or killed, Saleh said, only to be replaced by a new crop.

"The factory is not shut," he said. "It keeps producing."

Special correspondent Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.