Sunday, October 31

Halloween Post 2: Stephen Diamond asks if Democratic Party will tell Obama to get lost

Stephen Diamond's latest post, Is Obama vulnerable in 2012? asks whether the Democratic Party machine will force Obama out of the Democratic primary for President. Two years is forever in U.S. politics so there's no way of knowing at this point whether there will be a successful insurrection. But Steve's essay provides an instructive look back at how the maneuvering on the Democrat Party's Left greatly weakened Jimmy Carter's presidential reelection bid. Steve, who is an expert on U.S. labor unions, also does a rundown on how major unions are looking at Obama at this time. A must-read for political junkies.

The Halloween Post: Ghost Nations and the shape of the early 21st Century

NowhereVille tourist spot, Tajikistan

This passage from the (U.K.) Guardian's report on the Yemen cargo bomb plot sent me scurrying back to Nils Gilman's recent writings on deviant globalization and the 'hollowed out' state:
Travelling to the impoverished tribal areas [in Yemen] earlier this year, the Guardian's Ghaith Abdul-Ahad found al-Qaida was able to exploit the local traditions of hospitality, profound poverty, deep distrust of [President Ali Abdullah Saleh] and the ambivalence of the Yemeni government itself. Jihadist leaders had been released from prison on the understanding that they helped with the government's battles with Shia rebels in the north and not confront Sana'a [the capital city of Yemen] directly.

Saleh is also fending off secessionists in the south of the country and many observers believe that, among the many threats to his power, AQAP is the least of his worries.
If you stack this situation against Mexico, Pakistan, Nigeria, Thailand and several other nations, it's getting harder to tell many countries, apart, isn't it?

No matter how different the society, no matter how much or little economic progress, nature abhors a vacuum: wherever the state isn't strongly represented (the 'hollowing out' phenomenon) today's bad guys -- whether criminals or terrorists or insurgents or all the above -- have become skilled at quickly making themselves at home and creating a kind of ghost nation.

This situation is also present in India, which is expected to be the next big Asian Financial Tiger. But a big swath of India is controlled by the maoist Naxalites, who are gangsters, terrorists, and insurgents all rolled into one. Of course this swath is not near a big city. They rule out in the boonies, where the Indian bureaucrats and military don't have a presence to speak of.

Even in the United States, the Sonora Desert National Monument in Arizona is so overrun with Mexican drug gangs that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has warned Americans not to enter the park. The gangs have hollowed out a little ghost nation for themselves right inside the USA.

Last I heard, which I think was back in the summer, the embattled sheriff in the region was so desperate that he held a press conference during which he begged the federal government to send in at least 3,000 troops. He said that he and his deputies were completely outgunned and outmanned.

There are many causes and conditions for this ghost-nation phenomenon, as one can intuit from Nils Gilman's May 2010 The Meaning of Deviant Globalization, June 2010 The Collapse of Communism and the Rise of Deviant Globalization, and his link to a video of Riz Khan's really fun talk [Trench Humor Alert] on Black Market Sanctions Busting and his own speech this year on deviant globalization, which I've linked to before on this blog.

No small part of the phenomenon is the lid coming off when authoritarian regimes go broke. Mr Gurdjieff said about 80 years ago that there were tribes in Central Asia that the West had never heard of. I recalled that remark a few years ago while I was plowing through posts at the Ghosts of Alexander: Conflict and Society in Central Asia.

I snapped, "Yes, and we're having to learn about every one those tribes now, aren't we?"

With al Qaeda as our travel guide to quaint locations around the world, those of us who closely follow the war (and have developed an envious resentment of those who don't bother) must know where to find Tajikistan on a map. Only those of us who suffer as we do can understand what was so funny about Christian's title for one GOA post, Is Tajikistan the next Tajikistan?

At least he's getting a vacation from the doings in glorious downtown Dushanbe because he's grading papers.

Where was I?

Oh yes. The collapse of the Soviet Empire. With hindsight, why did we let that happen? We should have rushed in during 1985 with the standard World Bank-IMF packages and kept the Kremlin afloat. Instead, we have tribes nobody ever heard of running around in their Land Rovers with their satphones, setting up ghost nations wherever the state is not looking, collecting taxes at gunpoint from the villagers, and making bombs that they ship to us via FedEx.

Happy Halloween.

Latest on Yemen parcel bombs

The (U.K.) Telegraph has the investigators' latest theory on the plot, which is that the bombs "were designed to blow up passenger jets in a Lockerbie-style terrorist outrage." Why passenger planes, given that the packages were sent as air freight? The Telegraph explains:
More than half of all freight to the US is carried on passenger flights and Lord Carlisle of Berriew, the former government adviser on terrorism, said there was every chance a parcel bomb could end up on a passenger plane.

“If you put a parcel into UPS, you have no way of knowing what flight it is going to go on,” he said. “It could end up on a passenger flight.”

One of the bombs went to Dubai via Doha in Qatar on a passenger aircraft. The device that was found at East Midlands airport left the Yemeni capital of Sana’a on a passenger aircraft, which is also thought to have stopped at Doha, before it travelled to Cologne in Germany and Britain in cargo planes. [Home Secretary Theresa May] said: “What became clear overnight on Friday and into Saturday was that it was indeed a viable device and could have exploded.

“It could have exploded on the aircraft, and it could have exploded when the aircraft was in mid air. Had that happened it could have brought the aircraft down.”

Mrs May said it was “difficult” to say whether the explosion would have happened over Britain or America. “With these freight flights sometimes the routing can change at the last moment so it is difficult for those who are planning the detonation to know exactly where — if it is detonated to a time, for example — the aircraft will be,” she added. [...]
How many of the contraptions are out there?
After investigators in Yemen confirmed that they were examining 26 other packages, John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s counter-­terrorism adviser, said “it would be very imprudent … to presume that there are no other” [bombs].

Mr Brennan described the bombs as “sophisticated”, adding: “They were self-contained. They were able to be detonated at a time of the terrorists’ choosing.”

He said the plot “bears the hallmark” of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terrorist organisation’s Yemeni-based operation, whose leaders include Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born preacher.

The most likely bomb maker is said to be Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who made the device used in the foiled Christmas airline attack over Detroit.[...]
Lot's more data in the report, including the news that Prime Minister David Cameron is facing harsh criticism for waiting 24 hours before releasing information on the bomb plot to the public.

Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert's 10-30 rally and Glenn Beck's 8-28 rally

Poster for Glenn Beck's rally

Colbert-Stewart poster mocking Glenn Beck's rally

From Jon Stewart's closing remarks at the 10-30 rally on the Washington National Mall:
“I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism, or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are, and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times.”
If the rally wasn't to ridicule people of faith, why did it begin with a fake benediction from comedian Don Novello playing a fake cleric, Father Guido Sarducci? Or did Stewart and Colbert only mean to make fun of the priest who gave the invocation at Beck's rally?

Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart very clearly signaled in their mocking advertisement for the 10-30 rally that they wanted to draw the kind of Americans who hate Tea-Partiers, Glenn Beck, and everything Beck's Restoring Honor rally stood for. So for Stewart to say in the end that he couldn't control what people thought of his rally is sophistry. And to say it wasn't his intention to ridicule the kind of Americans who attended Glenn Beck's rally -- did the scriptwriters for his TV show get the memo?

I think Stewart was being two-faced. He wanted to draw anti-Tea Partiers and Beck-haters to the rally then as a sop claim it was all for a good cause: he just wanted to prod Americans with dissenting political views into being more cooperative.

I'd be surprised if Colbert agrees with Stewart's 'Can't we all just get along?' wrap-up meme. He's gone much further than Stewart in conveying his hatred for mainstream Americans. Last month he gave mock testimony before a U.S. congressional committee. That was just so he, and the Democrat who invited him to testify, could portray as extremists Americans who are against illegal immigration. That waste of taxpayer money was an embarrassment to some Democrats but termed 'irony' by Colbert's apologists.

Irony is a time-honored tactic in social criticism but Colbert and Stewart don't use irony in that way; they use it as a verbal bludgeon on Americans who don't share their political views. And even while making a show of conciliation Stewart couldn't resist using the bludgeon by adding that while America was facing hard times this didn't mean "end times." That's a clear reference to the American Christians who believe the Second Coming is imminent and claim to know how the end of the world will play out.

In other words, Stewart signified that American political activists who don't share the views of political 'progressives' are extremists. That same tack has been relentlessly deployed by the Democratic Party political machine and the Obama administration in the attempt to discredit the Tea Partiers. The U.S. Department of State even went so far as to use an American critic of the Tea Partiers to interpret the Tea Party movement to the foreign press. The critic, a reporter for the famously anti-Tea Party New York Times, hammered away at the theme that the Tea Partiers represent an extremist political movement.

If Stewart and Colbert and their friends in Washington want to mock extremism they can try out their brand of irony on these statements from a column by Neil Reynolds for Canada's Globe and Mail:
Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff says U.S. government debt is not $13.5-trillion (U.S.), which is 60 per cent of current gross domestic product, as global investors and American taxpayers think, but rather 14-fold higher: $200-trillion – 840 per cent of current GDP.

“Let’s get real,” Prof. Kotlikoff says. “The U.S. is bankrupt.”

Writing in the September issue of Finance and Development, a journal of the International Monetary Fund, Prof. Kotlikoff says the IMF itself has quietly confirmed that the U.S. is in terrible fiscal trouble – far worse than the Washington-based lender of last resort has previously acknowledged.

“The U.S. fiscal gap is huge,” the IMF asserted in a June report. “Closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal adjustment equal to about 14 per cent of U.S. GDP.”

This sum is equal to all current U.S. federal taxes combined. The consequences of the IMF’s fiscal fix, a doubling of federal taxes in perpetuity, would be appalling – and possibly worse than appalling.[...]
Now those are extreme statements. Stewart et al. had better hope the IMF and Kotlikoff are wrong. If they're right "hard times" would be nowhere near a description of what Americans will endure.

The problem is that hope isn't a strategy. The Tea Partiers do have a strategy for averting the worst-case scenario, which, as Reynolds noted, is that, "In the coming years the U.S. will almost certainly be compelled to deconstruct its welfare state." The same message is already reverberating in European capitals that were hit hard by the financial crisis.

Political 'progressivism' is nearing the end of the line, even without the size of the debt that Kotlikoff claims. The worst hasn't happened yet because the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve have been able to pressure foreign central banks to keep the U.S. dollar as the world's major reserve currency, and because other currencies aren't seen as a great refuge for money at this time.

But U.S. dollar hegemony has been in decline since the arrival of the euro and the rise of Russia's non-OPEC oil sales policy; the decline will accelerate as central banks more greatly diversify their foreign currency reserves. When the U.S. government can no longer shore up its industry in U.S. dollar sales, the economy will go into free fall if the U.S. debt isn't already greatly reduced.

So critics have things turned around when they complain that the Tea Partiers are against the very idea of federal government. The people in the movement have simply seen the writing the wall: the era of big government in the USA is headed for a crash. Their political strategy is aimed at creating a soft landing for Americans.

Glenn Beck's strategy is not the same as the Tea Partiers' even though he supports their general viewpoint and several Tea Party candidates. He's seen the same writing on the wall, but his approach to averting the worst scenario addresses an issue that's more fundamental than politics. Beck looked at America's political problems then drilled down to bedrock. This caused him to conclude that any people who spend themselves and their future generation into massive debt have bad character.

He's put a lot of pretty bows and sparkles on his conclusion in order to make it more pleasant for the public, but it was at the heart of the Restoring Honor rally. The message was that before you set out to improve your government first improve your character; this, on the theory that people with crummy character persistently nominate and elect scoundrels to political office.

Glenn Beck's message has gone over like bacon at a bar mitzvah among certain political conservatives and CEOs. They want good consumers, a good labor force, and good relations with countries that America does big trade with. They don't want to see an emphasis on good character, for all the Bible-thumping some of them do. That's because as soon as one places a high value on character, there goes the neighborhood: first better character, then better conscience, then where will the United States be in the ruthless pecking order of trading nations?

As to how to develop a better character as fast as possible -- the program for the Restoring Honor rally was Glenn's best answer. Part 2 will describe how I view the answer, which I have some disagreement with.

Friday, October 29

Paul Kagame declares "Hotel Rwanda" hero an enemy of his state

I got Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my experiences in Sri Lanka during the early period of the genocide there. In those days not as much was known about PTSD as today so it was years after that before I was diagnosed and got treatment.

I'm okay; I'm as recovered as one can ever be from the disorder, but there are still certain topics I avoid and one of them is the Rwandan genocide. So I didn't see Hotel Rwanda when it was in movie theaters and I avoided learning anything about it. Years later, a friend who gave movie parties showed the video of the movie. Early in the film I thought, 'I can't deal with this.' I went outside, smoked a cigarette, then told myself, 'Go back in there.'

I'm glad I did. I would never watch the movie again, but the story of one person's quiet courage in reply to unspeakable evil is like a friend's reassuring grip on one's arm during a terrible storm.

Someday, when the war is over, I plan to pay closer attention to doings at the United Nations. I've done my share of UN-bashing on this blog but I know there are some very good people working for various UN organizations. Generally they labor at the mid-levels and lower; above them is corruption and cowardice, and so the efforts of the good ones are in the manner of bailing water. Yet it is the unsung efforts of the water bailers which give the human race something to hold its head up about.

So I was interested to learn from today's (U.K.) Independent that some people at the United Nations had outwitted their superiors:
[...] The move against another high-profile critic of the Kagame government comes at a time of rising concern for human rights and democracy in Rwanda. Until recently Mr Kagame was credited with overseeing a miracle in the mountainous nation as it quickly recovered from 100 days of ethnic slaughter that killed nearly one million people. A country made infamous by one of the worst atrocities of the late 20th century has steadily become better known for gourmet coffee, gorilla tourism and its ambitions to be a central African hub for hi-tech industries.

Mr Kagame, who led the Tutsi rebel forces that overthrew the Hutu government in 1994 and effectively ended the genocide, was widely seen as a disciplined and effective modernising force. That lustre has been lost in the past 12 months amid a crackdown against all opposition before elections in August. Newspapers were closed, credible opposition groups were prevented from registering to take part and dissidents, including a journalist and an opposition leader, killed.

In the absence of serious opposition the President won by a landslide. The Rwandan government denied involvement in any of the attacks or killings and vowed to fully investigate any criminal actions. Since the vote there has been no let-up in the pressure on Mr Kagame's critics and the best known of the opposition leaders, Victoire Ingabire, was re-arrested earlier this week and is facing a possible life sentence over an alleged terrorist plot.

Mr Kagame has also fallen out with the United Nations recently after it issued a report which accused his government of conducting mass killings of ethnic Hutus across the border in Congo. A draft of the UN report was leaked prior to publication amid fears that Kigali would succeed in having references to the attacks as "genocidal" removed from the final document.
That's one small triumph for the water bailers. To back up to the beginning of the Independent report, filed by their Africa correspondent, Daniel Howden:
The man made famous by the film Hotel Rwanda and credited with saving more than 1,200 Tutsis during the 1994 genocide said yesterday that he fears for his life after the country's President made him "an enemy of the state".

Paul Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager currently living in Brussels where he says his home has been repeatedly ransacked, will be charged in Rwanda with links to a terrorist group.
Mr Rusesabagina has been one of the highest-profile critics of the government of Paul Kagame, who was re-elected earlier this year after a campaign marred by the killing of dissidents and a crackdown on opposition groups.

His Hotel Rwanda-Rusesabagina Foundation has called for a Truth and Reconciliation process in the country and warned that government oppression could lead to a fresh genocide in the Great Lakes region.

"Rwanda has become a big open prison where Kagame is the chief warden," said Mr Rusesabagina. "There is no free man in that country."

The anticipated charges are based on evidence provided by captured rebel commanders, Rwandan prosecutor Martin Ngoga said on Tuesday. "Those who want to continue considering him as a hero can go on. We consider him a serious criminal suspect who has been financing FDLR and we are challenging whoever speaks on his behalf to tell us whether he never sent money to these FDLR commanders we have in custody."

After the release of Hotel Rwanda Mr Rusesabagina was celebrated as a hero and humanitarian around the world. This stoked resentment in government circles in Kigali where the president has referred to him as "the Hollywood-made hero".

Mr Rusesabagina said accusations that he has been funding rebel groups were "fabrications" and that he would be happy to face trial in Belgium if necessary, where he is now a citizen. "I'm not surprised that they would go as far as making things up, even documents, they are very cunning," he said.

Thursday, October 28

Update to today's Holbrooke post; Long War Journal's latest analysis of al Qaeda in Afghanistan

> If you saw the post before 8:20 PM ET I added at the end an important opinion piece titled Gilani's remarks disrespect for Afghan sovereignty: Pakistani nationalists by tullah Kharotai at Pajhwok via e-Ariana on October 14. My observation was that Holbrooke was mindlessly parroting Gilani and that there were Pakistani leaders who didn't want their government to meddle in Afghanistan. The Obama administration, and the US military, need to consider those views -- and President Obama really needs to remove Holbrooke from his work on 'Afpak.' (Uck; that term still makes me shudder.)

> Long War Journal's Bill Roggio provides a very sobering analysis today of al Qaeda's activities in Afghanista:
A recently released al Qaeda martyrdom videotape identifies five foreign commanders who have fought and died in Afghanistan within the past few years. The profiles of these commanders reveal that, in sharp contrast to the current, official assessment of top US intelligence officials, al Qaeda has an extensive network in Afghanistan as well as a deep bench of experienced leaders. Also, the martyrdom statement shows how al Qaeda rotates its cadre of leaders to ensure that seasoned commanders are on hand in critical areas. [...]
Anyone who's trying to keep abreast of the war should read the entire report.

We will know the end of world is near when Pakistani officials don't tack "We need more money" onto their every tale of woe

"Pakistani officials say they do not have the financial resources to train police or buy the forensic equipment needed to adequately investigate and prosecute terrorism cases." I think I'm going to cry. Where is my Kleenex box?

Crack open a few bank accounts in Dubai, London and Geneva, you buzzards.

Mr Holbrooke, you're supposed to be working for the USA

Don't worry, Pakistan! I, Richard Holbrooke, will save you!

"Here lizard lizard lizard"

It's only natural for people to see their work as important and for the Type A's among us to attempt to expand their job description. But Richard Holbrooke's Godzilla-sized ego is now a serious problem for the ISAF war effort in Afghanistan, and for Afghans fighting the tyranny of Pakistan's proxy terrorist groups.

I know that General Petraeus has called Mr Holbrooke his 'wing man,' but perhaps they can perform their flying act somewhere less dangerous, like in the middle of Ohio:
Afghans Blast Pakistan Over Insurgent Fight
By Yaroslav Trofimov and Maria Abi-Habib
The Wall Street Journal, October 27

KABUL — Senior Afghan officials pressed the U.S. at a closed-door strategy session to force Pakistan to crack down on insurgents on its territory, saying recent military gains will be short-lived as long as these havens remain across the border.

"If we do not get rid of them, we're just wasting time, lives and money," Afghan national security adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta told the two-day conference that ended Wednesday, according to some participants. Mr. Spanta's aide confirmed the comments.
The Kabul meeting, known as the Rehearsal of Concept Drill, was aimed at coordinating the war effort for the coming year.

It convened as coalition and Afghan troops advanced in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar province. The U.S.-led military coalition told the conference that the insurgency in Afghanistan "has lost its momentum" because of recent allied operations, but remains "resilient," according to some participants.

The meeting brought together senior officials from the U.S., Afghanistan and Western nations. It was attended by U.S. special representative Richard Holbrooke, coalition forces commander Gen. David Petraeus and President Barack Obama's special assistant for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute.

American officials agreed with their Afghan counterparts that the insurgents' ability to regroup in Pakistan, especially the tribal area of North Waziristan, poses a serious challenge to the war effort.

The Obama administration has been pressing Islamabad to act there, and has told Pakistan that some funding could be in jeopardy if it doesn't move against the insurgents.

But, at the Kabul session, Mr. Holbrooke pushed back against Mr. Spanta's suggestion for the U.S. to threaten Pakistan with a cutoff in billions of dollars of American aid.

According to a U.S. official present, Mr. Holbrooke said the Pakistani government is focused on dealing with the aftermath of devastating floods there, and that the U.S. expects Islamabad will soon switch its focus to the insurgency. Pakistani officials have said their military is already overstretched, and that an offensive in North Waziristan could lead to a new wave of retaliatory terrorist attacks in Pakistani cities.

"Pakistan needs to be part of the solution, not part of the problem," Mr. Holbrooke said. "We will not achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan until Pakistan plays a positive and contributive role here."
Pakistan is the problem, you insufferable twit, and you have no business trying to ram Pakistan down Afghan throats.

Holbrooke is mindlessly parroting Pakistan's Prime Minister, who says what he's told to say by Pakistan's military. But Holbrook is not bothering to listen to other opinion in Pakistan on the matter of the Pakistani military's meddling in Afghanistan, and yet he should listen -- or more to the point, the U.S. military and the Obama administration should.
Gilani's remarks disrespect for Afghan sovereignty: Pakistani nationalists
By tullah Kharotai
Pajhwok via e-Ariana

QUETTA - Some Pakistani nationalist politicians say that Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani's recent remarks about the ongoing peace process in Afghanistan were tantamount to an attack and disrespect for the sovereignty of that country.

In a televised interview on Tuesday, Gilani said without Pakistan's help, the peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban were useless.

He said his country would be part of the process. "Look, nothing can happen without us because we are part of the solution. We are not part of the problem," the prime minister said.

His remarks came after President Hamid Karzai confirmed "unofficial contacts" were in place with the Taliban to bring them back to a normal life.

Wednesday was the first official working day for the long-awaited 70-member high peace council aimed at holding talks with Taliban and other armed opposition groups and bringing them into the national mainstream. However, the Taliban deny Karzai's claim of contacts with them.

Osman Kakar, the leader of the Awami National Party in Pakistan's Balochistan province, told Pajhwok Afghan News that Pakistan and its intelligence agencies had been interfering in Afghanistan's internal issues over the past three decades.

He said Pakistani government officials had no right to intervene into Afghanistan. He warned the country would never realistically work for the betterment of Afghanistan.

Kakar said Gilani's remarks proved the allegations that Pakistan had long been interfering in Afghanistan.

An influential figure, Malik Aman Kasi, believes that Pakistan sees its stability in a destabilised Afghanistan. He said Afghanistan was an independent country and can take any step it sees suitable under its social conditions.

A political analyst, Shamsuddin, says that if Pakistan is given any role in the Afghan-initiated peace process, the country would work to spoil the efforts instead of making it a success.

However, provincial secretary of the Awami National Party in Balochistan, Arbab Zahir Kasi, come up with a different opinion. He said that Pakistan should have been given a role in peace talks with the Taliban because of the country's good relations with the Taliban.

He said Pakistan could play its bit to convince the Taliban to arrive at the negotiating table.

However, he did not rule out Pakistan's interference in Afghanistan and training Taliban on its soil and then sending them to sabotage security in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Maximum Carnage: scouting Washington, DC Metro system for bombing targets, and the planned death toll for 26/11

The 26/11 planners intended to kill 5,000 people, not a few hundred

Even before the 62-hour seige of Mumbai in November 2008 was ended, two boxes containing 8 kg. RDX bombs had been found near the Taj Mahal Hotel & Towers, and two 8.8 kg bombs were later found at Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station. Both the Taj and CST were among the targets for the 10 terrorists' shooting rampage, but the question is why the bombs weren't detonated. One theory is that there was an 11th terrorist, one who was never found, and who was tasked with detonating the bombs.

Reportedly other undetonated bombs were found -- inside the Taj, inside Nariman House, and if I recall correctly inside the Trident hotel -- although I don't know the size and type of the bomb material in those bombs.

Why weren't the bombs detonated? I don't know; all I know is that at some point during the attacks the handlers who were directing the terrorists by cell phone came to suspect that the Indian authorities were monitoring the conversations, and that within minutes of zeroing in the phone exchanges the Indian government was fairly certain about the identity of the terror group that was directing the attacks: the LeT, which had close ties to Pakistan's military and its ISI branch, and that after interrogating the captured terrorist they were certain.

That is why, on day 2 of the siege, India's prime minister asked his counterpart in Pakistan to send the head of the ISI to New Delhi to explain what he knew of the attacks.

This caused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was dispatched to Islamabad, to chirp that she was satisfied with Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism: "I found a Pakistani leadership that is very focused and I think very committed for its own reasons."

There has been disagreement about the primary target of the 26/11 terror attacks but the number of casualties -- 173 people killed and at least 308 wounded -- is misleading in light of the fact that the planners intended to massacre at least 5,000 civilians. This means the differences of opinion are moot. The planners intended to inflict maximum carnage, irrespective of the victims' religion, ethnic makeup, social standing, vocation, and nationality.

It is the same for Farooque Ahmed, of Ashburn, Virgina, the Pakistani-American who was caught in a FBI sting to flush out people willing to engage in terrorist attacks on Americans. Ahmed not only scouted locations for bombings on Washington, DC Metro subway stations, he also advised how to inflict maximum carnage:
In July and August, Mr. Ahmed conducted surveillance and recorded videotape of the Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon City and Court House Metro stations in Washington's Virginia suburbs, the indictment says. He also did surveillance of a hotel in Washington, to study security and determine the busiest periods at the locations, the indictment says.

At a meeting in September, prosecutors allege, Mr. Ahmed told the contact an attack could cause the most casualties between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. He suggested placing bombs on trains at the three stations he had cased and proposed using rolling suitcases in simultaneous attacks in 2011, the indictment says. The suburban stations Mr. Ahmed allegedly scouted are often crowded with contractors and military personnel who work in offices affiliated with the nearby Pentagon.
The trains going through those subway stations are also packed at rush hour with people who do not work at the Pentagon or as defense consultants, and the Arlington Cemetery station sees large numbers of riders who are tourists or Americans paying respects to dead relatives. Given his place of residence there is no way Ahmed did not know that. Again, maximum civilian deaths and maiming, not an attack on defense personnel, was his aim.

A few minutes ago the McNorman blogger sent me a news report that rocket launchers and bombs hidden in Lagos, the huge metropolis and former capital of Nigeria, had been found by authorities. Her covering note: "Don't blow a gasket."

With all due respect and great sympathy for law-abiding Nigerians -- and Indians -- I do not live in Lagos, or Mumbai. I live in Washington, DC, which is ground zero for the next major terrorist attack on the United States. And my commuting route in Northern Virginia was messed up by the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.

But just to show McNorman what an even-tempered gal I am, this is the clean version of my remarks for Admiral Mullen, the CIA, FBI, MI6, U.S. and British foreign offices, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Atlantic Council, Council of Foreign Relations, RAND and the rest of the alphabet soup of think tanks and academic institutions on both sides of the Pond that have ever once cranked out apologies for Pakistan's regime:

Ya'll better get your heads out of your asses because if there's a major terrorist attack on the USA on your watch, you will be lucky if the editor of the Mashed Potato Falls, Wyoming gazette agrees to publish your op-eds.

With regard to the British government -- because I am such a sympathetic person, I fully understand that the British Isles, which cover a small land mass, cannot absorb many large-scale terrorist attacks. However, the government needs understand that cutting off your fingers to feed a tiger will not prevent it from making a meal of you.

To make sure we're all on the same page:
Before starting his visits to India, he had taken a new passport under the name David Coleman Headley in place of his previous passport under the name Daood Gilani in order to conceal his Pakistani origin from the Indian consular and immigration authorities.

The FBI would have been expected to share this information with the Indian authorities, but it did not do so. Had the FBI done so, the Indian authorities might have been able to establish the details of his Indian network, arrest and question him and pre-empt the [2008 massacre in Mumbai].
-- B. Raman, October 17, 2010, Headley Case: Indian distrust of FBI will increase

White House announces President Obama's itinerary in India

Obama flip-flops, made in China, sold in Mumbai

Via NDTV, October 28
New Delhi: The White House has announced US President Barack Obama's itinerary in India. (Pics: Welcome Barack Obama! India gets ready)

Obama will leave Washington on November 5 and will arrive in Mumbai on November 6.

His first stop will be the iconic Taj Hotel, targeted by Pakistan-based terrorists in 2008. He will meet 26/11 survivors there.

He will then meet India Inc at the US-India Business Council.

On November 7, he will participate in Diwali celebrations with Mumbai school children.

The president will also interact with university students at the Town Hall, the highlight of the event will be his speech on democracy.

On November 8, Obama will be in the Capital. His first stop will be Humayun's tomb and Raj Ghat. The same day he will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and address Parliament. He will also meet President Pratibha Patil. His day will end with the state dinner hosted by the Prime Minister and his wife.

Obama will leave Delhi for Jakarta on November 9 morning

Tuesday, October 26

Memo to Pundita Readers

Until further notice advise that you cover your ears while visiting this blog. Don't say I didn't warn you. I swear, this war is going to put me in a straightjacket yet.

Hey, hey Admiral Mullen how many US troops have you killed today?

Adm. Mullen has long been the most outspoken member of the U.S. government in support of Pakistan's military efforts. Adm. Mullen has used his close relationship with Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani army chief of staff, to prod the military to step up its actions against militants.
- Wall Street Journal, October 15, 2010

October 17, 2010, Long War Journal
Pakistan is not conducting 'surgical' raids in North Waziristan
By Bill Roggio

Buried at the end of this Wall Street Journal article on Admiral Mike Mullen's infatuation with Pakistan (a topic worthy of a book in itself), are these two completely false paragraphs that claim Pakistan is conducting covert operations against al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Haqqani Network based in North Waziristan:
Pakistan currently conducts "surgical" raids against militants in North Waziristan—home to the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network -- but has said a large-scale operation to clear the area of all military would threaten Islamabad's ability to keep militants out of other areas it cleared previously.

Islamabad is willing to step up their surgical raids in North Waziristan if the U.S. provides them with more information about the location of militants they want removed, a senior Pakistan official said this week.
There is absolutely not one shred of evidence to back this up. None. Pakistani forces have not killed a single leader or senior operative of al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, the Lashklar-e-Jhangvi, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami, the Fedayeen-i-Islam, etc., based in North Waziristan. The only "surgical raids" being carried out in North Waziristan are done by the unmanned US Predators and Reapers.

In the interview, Admiral Mullen describes Pakistan's counterinsurgency efforts against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Swat and South Waziristan as "heroic." Yet there is nothing remotely heroic in Pakistani officials making false claims about Pakistan's efforts to take on terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan. In the ranks of the US military, there is a term for those who pump up their exploits at the expense of those fighting alongside them: blue falcon.
Do you have any idea what you have done, Mullen? Do you even care? Right now ISAF is having to use a cutthroat warlord to clear Taliban for them because of your man crush on Kayani -- or is that you've Gone Native?

Don't give me that yap about Obama Made Me Do It. If Obama told you to jump off a cliff would you?

If you want to be diplomat, go work for State. If you want to lobby for Pakistan's regime, go to work on K Street. But whatever you do, get out of the U.S. military. Scat! Shoo! You, you, you -- Blue Falcon! Blue Falcon! Bad Bill Roggio! Bad! Bad! Teaching innocent old women military curse words!

Long War Journal, October 26, 2010
Pakistan: North Waziristan operation is not on the table
By Bill Roggio

Just days after the US government committed to providing the Pakistani military more than $2 billion in aid, the top general in the northwest said an operation in North Waziristan won't happen anytime soon. From Dawn:

"Pakistan will consider mounting an anti-Taliban offensive in North Waziristan only when other tribal areas are stabilised, a senior military officer said on Tuesday, a position likely to anger ally Washington.

Pakistan has resisted mounting US pressure to launch a major operation in North Waziristan to eliminate the Haqqani Taliban faction.

Pakistan's army has repeatedly said it is too stretched fighting Taliban insurgents in other forbidding mountaineous regions, and that only it can determine if and when to strike.

Lt.-Gen Asif Yasin Malik, the main military commander for the northwest, said it would take at least six months to clear militants from Bajaur and Mohmand, two of Pakistan's seven semi-autonomous tribal agencies.

“What we have to do is stabilise the whole area. I have a very large area in my command,” he told reporters on a trip to Orakzai agency. “The issue is I need more resources.”

There are already six brigades in North Waziristan which carry out daily operations, he said.

Surprising, isn't it?

And as we noted [on October 17] the Pakistani military is not carrying out operations in North Waziristan.

Has this problem been fixed yet? Or does ISAF plan to set up a Welcome Wagon and food court for Taliban on the Afghan side of Torkham Gate?

Torkham Gate checkpoint, Khyber Pass
Pakistan side of border with Afghanistan

Thursday, October 7, 2010, McClatchy Newspapers (emphasis mine):
Pakistan blocks NATO convoys but Taliban get free passage

By Dion Nissenbaum

TORKHAM, Afghanistan — For more than a week since a confused U.S. helicopter strike killed two Pakistan paramilitary soldiers, Pakistan has blocked scores of Western supply convoys on the vital route that supports the U.S-led military campaign in Afghanistan.

Yet every day, say taxi drivers, security officials and border shop owners, Taliban insurgents cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan with nary a second glance from border officials.

"Every day, 40,000 to 70,000 people pass through the border, we can't handle it," said Gen. Mohammed Zaman Mamozai, the commander of the Afghan Border Police stationed at Torkham gate. "For us it's very difficult, and it's not possible to ask every single person where they are going and if they have a passport."

"If they want to come to Afghanistan, none out of a hundred will be arrested," said Sediqullah, a 36-year-old Afghan taxi driver, as he waited for Torkham-bound passengers outside Kabul.

Among the thousands of men he's picked up at the border, Sediqullah, who like many Afghans has one name, suspects that he's unwittingly ferried plenty of inconspicuous Taliban insurgents heading to fight U.S.-led military forces across Afghanistan.

Pakistan's willingness to allow sanctuary for Afghan insurgents long has strained ties with the U.S., and its closing of one of NATO's critical supply routes to Afghanistan added to tensions. However, Afghanistan also shares the blame for failing to guard its own front door.

For nearly a decade, the U.S. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to cut off the remote, high-altitude mountain trails Taliban forces use to smuggle weapons and fighters into Afghanistan.

Now, the U.S. military is turning its attention to the border crossing.

"More and more we've realized that they are not coming through the passes, they're just coming through the . . . gate," said one U.S. government official in Afghanistan who spoke on the condition of anonymity so he could candidly discuss the unfolding plan to focus on the border crossing.

The U.S.-led coalition is setting up a special task force in eastern Afghanistan to deal with the insurgents who are coming into the country through the front door.

Torkham is one of America's busiest military lifelines into Afghanistan. About half of the U.S.-led military coalition's supplies come through Torkham, which is on the western edge of the fabled Khyber Pass, and the southern crossing at Spin Boldak, Afghanistan.

Not only have convoys headed for Torkham been idled, but Taliban officials in Pakistan also have claimed credit for a series of attacks on fuel trucks along the country's second supply route bound for NATO bases in Afghanistan.

Less dramatic, but every bit as troubling, is the suspected flow of insurgents using the porous crossing to dispatch new fighters, coordinate attacks and return to relative safety on the Pakistan side of the border.

No one can say how many foreign fighters pass through Torkham. Gen. Mamozai of the border police said he suspects that more insurgents use clandestine routes, but Torkham now has the attention of U.S. military officials.

"This area is our first priority," said a U.S. military official in eastern Afghanistan who also agreed to discuss the evolving program only if he could speak without being identified.

The Taliban presence is clearly evident at Torkham. [...]

Mamozai said his forces don't have the resources, intelligence network, surveillance equipment or Western support necessary to secure the border.

In the past nine months, the general said, his men had made only a few dozen arrests and confiscated a few hundred weapons at the border.

Getting a handle on the problem, he said, would require the Obama administration to put increased pressure on Pakistan to target insurgent havens along the border.

"Pakistan is not helping," he said. "The problem is that the international community is not going to that side of the border."

Border corruption and abuse are widespread.

Within minutes of arriving at the Torkham crossing gate earlier this week, two Western reporters watched a Pakistani border guard shake down a young traveler for a few dollars before letting him into the country.

Nearby, a second Pakistani border guard roughly pulled a second young man into a tiny border police shack after the traveler refused to comply with demands for cash.

On the other side of the road, Afghan border police stood by as scores of people walked into Afghanistan without being checked at the last gate. [...]

Afghan warlord Abdul Raziq pulls Petraeus irons out of fire but we need Gurkhas. We need Gurkhas badly.


Afghan Border Police, Spin Boldak

Yes I know there has been a Gurkha unit in Afghanistan; the 1st Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, has been serving in southern Helmand province and of course doing a splendid job. They're returning to their base in England next month. But we really need Gurkha units at the border checkpoints.

With regard to the Afghan border police at Spin Boldak, the ISAF has had to make a deal with the devil because the NATO regimes, including the U.S. one, refuse to deal with Pakistan's military in appropriate fashion. This October 26 Washington Post report, U.S. operations in Kandahar push out Taliban, (which I feature in its entirety at the end of this post) does not go anywhere near telling the real story about the heroic Afghan Police Colonel Abdul Raziq, the leader of a tribal militia and border police force that extends across Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

Yes the colonel is very brave; a great fighter, a great leader -- a man who fights out in front of his troops the way real military commanders used to do -- and he is killing many Taliban. He is also a fiend.

Here is the real story about the colonel, whose name is spelled somewhat differently depending on the reporter. No matter how you spell it -- Abdul Razik, Abdul Raziq, Abdul Razziq -- it's the same Afghan warlord who is right now pulling General Petraeus's irons out of the fire in Kandahar.

And note that Carlotta Gall's October 21 report for The New York Times, which broke the story that the U.S. military was "routing" the Taliban from Kandahar, does not mention the efforts of the colonel; it cites only an amazing 'new' mobile rocket with pinpoint accuracy as a factor in the rout. There's an amazing mobile rocket, all right; its name is Abdul Raziq.

But the colonel's help is not a solution, and it is creating just as many problems as it solves. From Afghanistan Analysts Network, 2010 Elections 29: Losing legitimacy - Kandahar's preliminary winners:
There has been some very positive news coming out of Kandahar province lately, as the New York Times' Carlotta Gall has reported. According to ISAF and Afghan government officials, the Taliban have been "routed" from the province by a massive military offensive, partly with the help of a miraculous rocket launcher, the HIMARS system, which, though not exactly "new" as claimed in the Times piece, certainly sounds impressive. The news is all the more remarkable in that it closely follows the timetable that was laid down by military officials throughout the summer.

It's a pity, then, that this moment of military triumphalism should be marred by the impending election -- barring Electoral Complaints Council (ECC) intervention -- of an extremely dubious slate of Afghan parliamentary candidates, one that underscores how tenuous the connection is between the people of Kandahar and their government.


[Election] Observers were anticipating extreme fraud in Kandahar, where what little security exists is dependent on strongmen. The most notable of these is the young Border Police colonel Abdul Raziq, who commands a large, mostly Achekzai militia based out of the key border town of Spin Boldak. In the 2009 presidential elections, Raziq proved that he could deliver vote counts through his commander network that extends through the districts of Maruf, Arghestan, Spin Boldak, Reg, Shorawak, and Daman. This year, he seems to have been elevated, in some respects, to a role in the elections equal to Ahmed Wali Karzai’s. [...]
The paragraphs I've snipped from the AAN report are too depressing to read unless you don't mind wearing sackcloth and ashes for the rest of the day.

The photograph of Afghan border police in the "key" border town of Spin Boldak was taken by the AAN report's co-author, Matthieu Aikins, and used for Foreign Policy magazine's crosspost of the AAN report. The photo of the Gurkhas is from the BBC but they don't identify the unit.

All right; I'm now going to go sprinkle more ashes on my head and take a swig from the sherry bottle -- for medicinal purposes only, of course.
Washington Post report
U.S. operations in Kandahar push out Taliban
By Joshua Partlow and Karin Brulliard
Staff writer Rajiv Chandrasekaran and special correspondent Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN - With 2,000-pound bombs, 12,000 troops and one illiterate but charismatic Afghan border police commander, the U.S. military has forced insurgents to retreat from key parts of this strategically vital region, according to U.S. and Afghan commanders.

The developments are far from decisive, but senior military leaders believe they have made progress on the western outskirts of Kandahar city and in the pomegranate orchards of the Arghandab River valley. The ground remains treacherous, seeded with bombs that reverberate daily through the city.

The Taliban departure from some areas could be a strategic response to an operation NATO has trumpeted for months. Or insurgents could be lying low, developing new avenues of attack. NATO forces have cleared villages before, including in Kandahar province, and failed to hold them. Whether insurgents can be kept away this time, or prevented from grabbing new parts of the city or its surroundings, remains to be seen.

The most unexpected, and potentially risky, aspect of NATO's resurgence is Abdul Razziq, the 32-year-old police colonel best known for allegations of pocketing millions of dollars in illegal customs dues, who has left the border to lead hundreds of his militiamen into Taliban-held villages that have bedeviled NATO troops for years.

Behind Razziq's hardened fighters -- who possess a local knowledge that police officers and soldiers from Afghanistan's national security forces cannot match -- American soldiers have taken back territory previously out of reach. He has led clearing operations in all of the areas central to the American campaign here - Panjwayi, Zhari, Arghandab and Kandahar city - and has captured hundreds of Taliban fighters.

"He's like a folk hero now," said Col. Jeffrey Martindale, who commands a U.S. Army brigade in Kandahar. "The Taliban fear him."

Afghans who live in these areas, and have witnessed earlier clearing operations give way to Taliban comebacks, often do not share the U.S. military's optimism. And some believe insurgents may be moving into the city to avoid U.S. troops on the periphery.

"Security in the city is now drastically worse," said Samsor Afghan, 27, a university student who runs a computer software store downtown, across the street from where a suicide bomber attacked the day before.

"The Taliban are everywhere. We don't feel safe even inside the city."

American commanders have nevertheless been buoyed by changes in areas where the bulk of their forces are located. Among the shifts is what they describe as a new assertiveness from Afghan security forces, which now outnumber NATO troops in this operation.

A late-night call

Officers trace the change to one night in mid-August, when Kandahar's governor, Toryalai Wesa, called President Hamid Karzai to report that Taliban forces were blocking a road and searching cars in Malajat, an insurgent stronghold in western Kandahar city.

"Could you, Mr. President, order NATO to come and help us?" Wesa asked, according to an Afghan official present in the palace.

"Shame on you," Karzai replied.

Karzai had recently issued a decree instructing governors to act as the commander of all Afghan security forces in their provinces. He told Wesa to assemble his own force and respond. "Go after them. Don't wait for NATO," he said.

Just hours later, Wesa had cobbled together a few hundred Afghan police, soldiers and intelligence officers and sent them into Malajat, a move that surprised the Americans in Kandahar. The operation began with Afghan government forces capturing 11 insurgents, but the contingent was soon trapped in a minefield. Five Afghans were killed getting out.

Wesa emerged chastened from the operation, U.S. officials said. For a second run at Malajat, the solution was Razziq. On the border, he developed an outsize reputation - part Robin Hood, part warlord. He was a close ally of the Karzais with thousands of tribal warriors at his command.

"If you need a mad dog on a leash, he's not a bad one to have," said a U.S. official in Kandahar.

U.S. troops hastily planned support and coordinated to have Afghan forces ring the neighborhood, while Razziq, cellphone and satellite phone in hand, roared up from the southern desert with a few hundred men. They arrested about 20 suspected insurgents and found scores of explosives.

There was little violence, but U.S. troops noted Razziq's style. At one point, his men spotted a stolen Afghan police truck. They fired at it with a rocket-propelled grenade, which deflected off the truck and exploded in the trees. Suddenly a man in white robes fell from the branches, blowing up when his suicide vest hit the ground, which then blew up the truck - a story that Razziq chuckles in recalling, U.S. officials said.

[Pundita note: another part of this famous tale is that some of Razziq's men screamed and ran at the sight of the Taliban in white robes, thinking they'd seen a ghost.]

As this partnership has developed, Razziq has been partnered with a U.S. Special Forces commander to help coordinate his moves. He has been called on elsewhere, including particularly treacherous parts of the Arghandab River valley, where whole villages had been rigged with explosives that had made them impenetrable to previous American units.

The Afghan operations have stunned U.S. troops, accustomed to years of prodding along their reluctant allies. At 3 a.m. on Sept. 15, Capt. Mikel Resnick, a company commander in Arghandab, learned that 1,000 Afghan troops were moving into his area.

"I don't know if they're going to go burn the orchards down and leave me to clean it up," he said of his initial reaction to the plan.

The Afghans, who took 72 hours to capture 50 detainees, five large bombs and 500 pounds of explosives, required only advice and air support from the Americans, said Lt. Col. Rodger Lemons, the battalion commander at the Arghandab district center.

"We basically sat in here and monitored the fight," Resnick said, referring to his outpost at the village of Sarkari Bagh. "They essentially cleared this entire place out."

U.S. military officials acknowledge that it is not ideal to have the border police leading the operation, because the goal is for the Afghan army and police to provide security in their own areas.

"We need to make sure this is not undermining the legitimacy of the Afghan government," said a senior NATO military official in southern Afghanistan.

The fight in Kandahar, unlike the previous U.S.-led operation in Marja, has also benefited from a more intensive campaign by U.S. Special Operations forces to hunt down Taliban commanders and bomb-making networks before the infantry push.

The local victims

During the Kandahar operation, Americans have unleashed ferocious air bombardments. In some parts of the Arghandab, U.S. troops discovered the Taliban had cleared out whole villages and rigged each house with homemade explosives.

In one October operation to clear the way for Razziq's troops, American aircraft dropped about 25 2,000-pound bombs and twice as many 500-pound bombs, while also firing powerful rockets over the ridge from the Kandahar Airfield miles away.

"We obliterated those towns. They're not there at all," Martindale said. "These are just parking lots right now."

Martindale said civilians had long ago fled the Taliban-dominated area, and that the U.S. attacks did not cause civilian casualties - a claim that could not be independently verified.

Faced with the NATO and Afghan push, American commanders believe that many Taliban leaders have retreated to Pakistan, leaving lower-level fighters to stage attacks in Kandahar. Part of this appears to be the normal ebb of fighting in Afghanistan, as insurgents slow their tempo in the colder months.

Afghans living in Zhari and Panjwayi cited many complaints with the current operations, including homes and orchards damaged by American troops, no government support for the people and elusive Taliban guerrillas who dodge the conventional armies.

"Who are the victims of these operations? Just the local people. If the Taliban comes, the people suffer, if the foreign forces come, the people suffer," said Mohammad Rahim, a member of Panjwayi's district council. "The Taliban always leave, and the Taliban always come back."
Of course they'll continue to come back unless there are better border controls and NATO stops playing patty-cake with Pakistan's military and civilian leaders.


So India is supposed to eat America's shit? Is that the story behind the bombshell report on Tehran's payments to Karzai?

Ever since The New York Times broke the story on October 23 I have been trying to figure out why Tehran's bribes to Karzai's regime, which have been going on practically since Karzai was installed in office, were turned into a sensational news story, replete with 'leaks' from unnamed officials and lots of horrifying details. What else was happening that might explain why unnamed officials wanted to announce just then that there was gambling in Casablanca? I noted on the 24th that the latest strategic dialogue between Pakistan and the United States was happening, which led me to conclude:
I suspect the sudden airing of many details about Iran's machinations, including their continued support for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar "one of the most brutal of Afghan warlords," is in response to howls from Pakistani officials that they shouldn't be accused of all things bad in Afghanistan while the Iranians are running riot there.
But while reading Bret Stephens's op-ed today for the Wall Street Journal that's titled, The Pakistan Paradox, suddenly another possibility dawned. The bombshell New York Times report on Iran's machinations in Afghanistan was published little more than two weeks before President Barack Obama is scheduled to leave for a visit to India:

> Where he is going to have to face pointed questions from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about what U.S. intelligence agencies knew regarding the planned 2008 terrorist strike on Mumbai, orchestrated by a terror group with close ties to Pakistan's military, and exactly when they knew it.

> Where he going to ask for the Indian government's continued understanding about the U.S. government's close involvement with a terror-sponsoring regime that keeps mounting attacks on Indian civilians.

> And where he is going to attempt to bully, bribe, and cajole Mr Singh into cutting off friendly diplomatic relations with Tehran.

Bingo! Double Bingo!

As to what Bret Stephens's op-ed has to do with any of this -- nothing, not directly. He argues that Indians will have to suck it up regarding the U.S. relationship with Pakistan because, well, the USA needs Pakistan's help right now:
[...] If there's an overarching logic here it's that Islamabad wants to preserve its options. Uncertainty about U.S. staying power in Afghanistan helps explain why Pakistan will not entirely forsake its erstwhile clients in the Taliban and the mujahedeen. Pakistani fears are further exacerbated by America's recent tilt toward India.

And while the Obama administration has made much of its aid packages for Pakistan—$1.5 billion a year on the civilian side, followed last week by the announcement of another $2 billion for the military—Pakistani officials complain that only a small fraction of the funds have been disbursed.

What, then, to do? First, instead of publicly lecturing Pakistanis on how they need to get tough with the Taliban, the administration would do better to make good on its existing commitments. Say what you will about Mr. Zardari's abilities, he has aided the U.S. military effort in a way his predecessor Pervez Musharraf, supposedly a pro-American strongman, never did.

That's a relationship to build on, quietly and incrementally, not to tear down. So it would be helpful if the administration doesn't repeat the mistake of blabbing to Bob Woodward, whose book may have helped Mr. Obama seem more presidential but didn't do any favors to his presidency.

Equally helpful would be to stop mindlessly demanding that military assistance to Pakistan go toward fighting the Taliban instead of arming against India.

The missing ingredient in Pakistan's counterinsurgency effort isn't the right military tool kit, such as night-vision goggles or Apache helicopters. It's the will of the Pakistani general staff to cooperate more fully in the fight. If that cooperation can be secured by selling conventional weapons such as F-15s and M-1 tanks to Pakistan, so much the better.

(As for India, it has less to fear from a reasonably well-armed, confident Pakistani army that has strong ties to the U.S. than it does from a poorly armed Pakistan that mistrusts the U.S. and continues to consort with jihadists as a way of compensating for its weakness.)

Finally, the administration ought to understand that Pakistan's reluctance to defeat the Taliban at any price is a mirror image of our own reluctance. The July 2011 "deadline" to begin withdrawing troops was bound to affect Islamabad's calculations, and not for the better. The sooner we junk it, the better the cooperation we'll get.

It's an old American habit to lament the incompetence and duplicity of our wartime allies, and Pakistan abounds in both qualities. But unless we are prepared to deal with Pakistan as an adversary, we must make do with it as a friend.
Bret's claim that India has less to fear from a well-armed, "confident" Pakistani army with close ties to the USA is so ignorant of the history of Pakistan's relations with the U.S. and India as to be insulting to a well-informed reader's intelligence.

Bret is a superhawk about dealing with Iran -- he once urged in writing that Israel bomb Iran. It struck me that some version of his argument about India and Pakistan is standard issue for superhawks on Iran and that some of them also downplay the importance of Afghanistan and a U.S. victory there.

Such arguments seem to arise from a view that the Pakistan and the Afghan conflict is nowhere near as important as the threat to Israel from Iran. From that line of reasoning it would follow that India needs to distance itself from Iran if it's to have a good relationship with the United States, and that it shouldn't try to push the USA to get tough with Pakistan.

At any rate, those were the thoughts that struck me after I finished reading Bret's essay. Actually, the first thought was, 'So Bret's an expert now on Pakistan and India, is he?'

Well, many in the American branch of the Commentariat are scrambling to become overnight experts on those two countries after finding them on a map. Anyhow, it was a hop and a skip from the above thoughts to my little Eureka! moment about the timing of the report on Iran raining cash on Karzai's regime.

Is she right, is she wrong? Either way I have no intention of giving back my bingo prize.


More on Afghanistan's untapped mineral deposits and tenders

Reuters, October 25
Afghanistan to develop $3 trillion in mining potential
By Amena Bakr

DUBAI (Reuters) - Afghanistan is estimated to be sitting on $3 trillion worth of untapped mineral deposits, but poor infrastructure and investor caution are inhibiting development of its mining industry, its mines minister said.

"This estimate is based only on 30 percent of the country's area; there is still 70 percent we have no idea about," Afghan Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of an industry conference in Dubai on Monday.

Since the start of the year, the ministry has been making presentations in London and New York to drum up investor interest in the nascent mining sector.

By July next year, the ministry hopes to award a tender to a foreign company for the development of the Hajigak iron ore deposit west of Kabul, said Shahrani.

"We estimate that there are 2 billion tonnes of reserves in Hajigak, with a 62 percent of iron concentration," he added.

U.S. defense officials, who recently examined the results of a 2007 USGS survey and other information from the Soviet era, estimate Afghanistan's mineral wealth could top $1 trillion.

Mining experts say this figure is untested, however, and caution that it will take years, even decades, for that level of revenue to materialize because of a host of problems from war and infrastructure to a government trying to overcome years of corruption.

In February, Afghanistan had scrapped an earlier tender for the Hajigak deposit, citing global recession and low investor interest in a large vertically integrated project.

Afghanistan awarded a giant copper contract in 2007 to a Chinese consortium to develop a deposit in the Aynak region south of Kabul, and Shahrani said he expected there would be Chinese and Indian interest in the forthcoming iron ore tender.

The ministry also plans to launch tenders by late 2011 for the Balkhab copper deposit, which has reserves of around 45 million tonnes and is located in the north, he said.

"This will be a very active year for issuing tenders, and we want to assure investors that the government will not interfere in the mining business and will only have a regulatory role in the process," he added.

(Reporting by Amena Bakr; Editing by Jane Baird)

1:30 AM ET update to Karzai Iran post

For readers who saw the original post: update re interesting interview from Monday night Batchelor show.

Monday, October 25

Karzai: About that money from Iran. I can explain.

You know, I feel so sorry for people who complain about being bored, or who have to make do with the crummy line-up of network and cable TV shows for their evening entertainment. I have the war on terror to keep me amused.

Well, after Tehran issued a denial today, President Hamid Karzai decided to meet the critics head-on and ask, 'What's wrong with accepting buckets of cash from Iran?'

You can't make this stuff up. The best scriptwriters are left in the dust.

From the schedule for John Batchelor Show October 25, John's notes on his interview with Wahid Monawar Read the WSJ report I linked to above for background on Karzai's remark that cash payments from Iran are transparent:
Monday 1050P (750P Pacific Time): Wahid Monawar, former Afghan ambassador to UN IAEA in Vienna; now with Zurich Partners, in re: Iran: This is not a one-way street. What [is Iran] getting in return?

"For Karzai to call this process [of taking cash from Iran] 'transparent' is bilge water. In September 2008, I campaigned to have Afghanistan serve on the board of governors of the IAEA; Iran heavily pressured us to withdraw our nomination. We had the support of OIC, Australia, European countries. And Karzai insisted I withdraw the nomination, which I declined to do. Iranian ambassador objected; the chair of the meeting, the Italian ambassador, was amazed at his position; it was the end of Ramadan, so Iran didn't pursue this. It became a big issue at the general conference; at the last minute, Syria withdrew so we served for two years on the board of governors. After my five months of campaigning for this prestigious position, I was relieved of my duties because I didn't obey Karzai, who was obeying Teheran."
The podcasts for Monday's show are not yet posted to the WABC Radio website. Check at the site in about an hour; the podcasts should be up by then.
From AFP wire service via Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, October 26:
TEHRAN: Iran acknowledged on Tuesday that it had given “assistance” to Afghanistan in reconstructing the war-wracked country, after President Hamid Karzai admitted receiving bags of cash from Tehran.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a neighbouring government is deeply concerned about Afghanistan’s stability, and has given much assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said when asked to comment on Karzai’s announcement that Tehran had given bags of cash to one of his aides.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has done its part in helping Afghanistan rebuild and develop its economy and will do so in the future,” Mehmanparast said, without elaborating on the form of the assistance.

The White House on Monday voiced concern about Iran’s “negative influence” on Afghanistan in the light of Karzai’s revelation.

Karzai insisted at a news conference in Kabul on Monday that the payments to his chief of staff — sometimes as much as 700,000 euros (980,000 dollars) at a time — were transparent payments for his presidential office.

But White House deputy spokesman Bill Burton said: “I think the American people and the global community have…every reason to be concerned about Iran trying to have a negative influence on Afghanistan.”

He said Iran had a responsibility to exert “a positive influence on the formation of a government there, and to ensure that Afghanistan is not a country where terrorists can find safe harbour, or where attacks can be planned on their soil”.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that Karzai’s chief of staff, Umar Daudzai, received regular cash payments from Iran, which is reportedly trying to expand its influence in the presidential palace in Kabul.

Karzai angrily denied that the payments were secret.

Cash payments “are done by various friendly countries to help the president’s office… this is transparent,” Karzai said Monday.

“This is nothing hidden. We are grateful for Iranian help in this regard. The United States is doing the same thing. They’re providing cash to some of our offices.”

Asked if the money came in bags, as reported, he said: “It does give bags of money yes, yes it does…it’s all the same, let’s not make this an issue.”

He said Iran — which has had no diplomatic relations with the United States for three decades — has assisted his government with up to 700,000 euros once or twice a year in the form of official aid.

“He (Daudzai) is receiving the money on my instructions,” he added.

In a statement issued shortly before Karzai spoke, the Iranian embassy in Kabul dismissed the New York Times report as “false, ridiculous and insulting”.

”Such baseless speculations are being spread by some Western media outlets in order to confuse public opinion and damage the strong ties between the governments and nations of the Islamic republics of Afghanistan and Iran,” it said. — AFP

Sunday, October 24

When will Pakistan opinion experts stop punching Americans in the face?

On Friday Foreign Policy magazine's 'AFPAK Channel' went into overdrive, probably trying to do Foggy Bottom a favor, and published no less than eight op-eds under the heading "Is there any way to fix Pakistan?"

Below are the titles of the pieces and the names of the authors; most of the names will be tiresomely familiar to Pakistan watchers. The only fully honest opinion piece among the lot is by Mariam Mufti. She tells it like it is, and adds this dead-on remark:
Furthermore, vulnerability of the Pakistani state needs to be examined at yet another level and that is the dependency of the government on foreign aid and its alliance with the United States for its sustenance.
The opinion piece that's the most insulting to Americans is the one by Shuja Nawaz; I can't remember whether he eventually became an American citizen but anyhow his view is typical of how Pakistan's rulers see Americans. He details how Pakistan's tax evaders are doing their part to destroy what's left of the country:
In Pakistan, almost nobody who is powerful enough to get out of doing so actually pays taxes; the leaders of government, opposition parties, and high society do their utmost to avoid them, even as they demand that the state provide them with extensive services.
As to what's to be done about this:
Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, a new economic team has begun making efforts to change that system and move Pakistan to a higher tax-to-GDP ratio than its current 9 percent. But these efforts will likely run into a roadblock in parliament -- and as always, the key test will be whether the country can actually implement them at either the federal or the provincial level, where reform efforts in the country usually go to die.
So, nothing is going to change. As to what do about that:
For friends such as the United States, it means being ready to support the flailing country before things get even worse. It's time to move from talk to action.
Nawaz projects onto America the way things are in Pakistan: the U.S. government is entirely independent of the wishes of the American masses. So, naturally, he sees nothing strange in arguing that because Pakistan's ruling class will not change it's up to the U.S. government to carry Pakistan on its back.

We've been nursing vipers. What the hell's wrong with us?

Pakistan After the Floods
By Wendy Chamberlin and Qursum Qasim

Playing politics with pakistan's floods
By Mariam Mufti
Mariam Mufti is currently completing her dissertation on elite recruitment and regime dynamics in Pakistan at Johns Hopkins University and is a visiting scholar at the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Toronto.

Karachi's Downward Spiral
By Nadia Naviwala, October 22, 2010

Don't Underestimate the General
By Imtiaz Gul

Pakistan's Rich Tax Evaders Are the Least of Our Problems
By Shuja Nawaz

Don't Just Rebuild Infrastructure, Rethink ItBy Ahmad Rafay Alam

Spend Aid Money on DevelopmentBy Nancy Birdsall, Wren Elhai, Molly Kinder

USAID disaster relief chief Mark Ward on the difficult delivery of flood relief
FP interview with Mark Ward

U.S. in Afghanistan for the long haul if U.S. military construction projects are any indication

This is the most hopeful from the war front I've had all year. The report is long and detail-laden so I'll only provide a few sentences here:
U.S. dug in for long haul in Afghanistan
By Nick Turse for TomDispatch via Asia Times Online
October 23, 2010

[A] base-building surge ... has left the countryside of Afghanistan dotted with military posts, themselves expanding all the time, despite the drawdown of forces promised by President Barack Obama beginning in July 2011.
[A] TomDispatch analysis of little-noticed US government records and publications, including US Army and Army Corps of Engineers contracting documents and construction-bid solicitations issued over the past five months, fills in the picture. The documents reveal plans for large-scale, expensive Afghan base expansions of every sort and a military that is expecting to pursue its building boom without letup well into the future. These facts-on-the-ground indicate that, whatever timelines for phased withdrawal may be issued in Washington, the US military is focused on building up, not drawing down, in Afghanistan.

Two bombshell reports on Afghan War within three days

The first report, filed on October 21 by Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel for McClatchy Newspapers, is titled, U.S. officials, experts: No high-level Afghan peace talks under way. To hear the reporters' sources tell it, publicity about the Karzai administration's discussions with Taliban have been part of an elaborate strategic-communications ruse mounted by General Petraeus & Co., a clever psyops campaign.

The second report was filed on the 23rd by Dexter Filkins for the New York Times: Iran Is Said to Give Top Aide to Karzai Cash by the Bagful. Filkins reports that (anonymous) officials say that Umar Daudzai, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's chief of staff, "serves as a conduit for Iranian cash into the Karzai government" and that Tehran is funneling millions to Karzai to help him shore his power and undercut the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

The Filkins report drops so many bombs that anyone who doesn't already know all the stuff in the report will be left shell-shocked. However, I'm having a problem with the timing of the two reports.

If there really was a clever ruse to sow dissent among the Taliban leaders, I can't understand why Petraeus friendlies would undercut him by blabbing about it to reporters at this delicate juncture. Surely Taliban leaders have been suspicious that the encouragement they've gotten to negotiate with Karzai's regime is a divide-and-conquer tactic. Now they have confirmation for their suspicion from a major news organization. (The Taliban leaders are fanatical news consumers, so there is no way they missed the McClatchy report.)

I'm going to take a flyer and speculate that there was no ruse -- that Petraeus, either following his Iraq playbook and/or acting under orders from Obama advisors, did genuinely reach out to the Taliban to get them to at least talk with Karzai. However, if the recent reports are true that the Northern Alliance has rearmed, I'd say Obama and the rest of the NATO leaders were caught off guard by the speed with which the alliance reacted to Karzai's negotiations with Taliban leaders.

If my line of reasoning is correct it makes sense that NATO would suddenly scramble to downplay talk that there are negotiations between Karzai and Taliban leaders, even if meant throwing a monkey wrench into the negotiations. The last thing NATO needs is a civil war on its hands in Afghanistan.(1)

As to the Filkins report, it states that Karzai had been taking money from Iran's government before Daudzai became his chief of staff in 2003. And while the extent of Iran's influence in Karzai's government is a revelation, from what the report says this is not news to American officials.

And I recall U.S. military brass making accusations, going back years, about Iran's machinations against ISAF troops. But all once Afghan officials have decided to unburden themselves to a New York Times reporter out of concern that Tehran is sabotaging ISAF efforts in Afghanistan. And all at once Richard Holbrooke has snapped out of his daze:
Obama administration officials have expressed alarm about Iranian intentions. Last week, Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, complained to Afghanistan’s finance minister, Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, about Mr. Daudzai and Iran’s influence in the presidential palace, a former Afghan official said.
Let's see, what else was going on last week? Ah yes. The latest strategic dialogue between Pakistan and the United States.

So regarding the sudden decision by unnamed officials to dish the dirt about Iran's involvement with Afghanistan, here I'll take another flyer. I suspect the sudden airing of many details about Iran's machinations, including their continued support for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar "one of the most brutal of Afghan warlords," is in response to howls from Pakistani officials that they shouldn't be accused of all things bad in Afghanistan while the Iranians are running riot there.

As to how the Iranians came to run riot -- gee do you think it has anything to do with Richard Holbrooke making public remarks such as, "Pakistan is one of the most important countries in the world" and evidence that NATO has been pressuring Karzai to cut a deal with Pakistan-backed warlords the Pakistani military is on good terms with?

So I have to weigh Iranian bribes against the USA bribing Karzai into committing political suicide. As to how long this bribery tug-of-war can last between Tehran and Washington -- not long, if Obama doesn't get serious about routing the Taliban, and if American civilian and military leaders don't quit clowning around with their counterparts in Pakistan.

Is the latter possible as long as the 'Get Russia' crowd still has any power in Washington? The question needs to be answered. I don't envy Barack Obama's position if that crowd is still machinating to keep Pakistan as a strategic asset against Russia. But I don't know what to say except that Obama wanted the dirtiest job in the world, and he got it.

1) Oct. 25 Update: It's noteworthy in this context to mention that the Northern Alliance is a misnomer that's gotten entrenched in Western usage. It was originally a propaganda term devised by Pakistan's military and picked up by their news media at the time of the alliance's formation; this was in an effort to make it seem as if resistance to the Taliban came only from the north of Afghanistan. The actual name given to the resistance was the United Front, and it encompassed a wide range of Afghans from all over the country.

Friday, October 22

Is there anything else you'd like us to do, Mr Khalilzad? Set up a colony on the moon by next April?

The people who get paid to crank out opinion on the Afghan War and the U.S.-Pakistan relationship are not even bothering to think anymore. They're recycling advice that everyone knows is useless. It's the same for the Op-ed contingent: just get your think-tank, university, consulting firm or latest book a mention in a major publication and bang out a few paragraphs to justify the advertisement. Then there's the Pakistani Dialing for Dollars crowd (Kick us, beat us, we'll do better if you give us more money) and the influence agents and propagandists, whose motives are evident after they've put out five of their hack jobs or played Talking Head a few times.

I know I should put the above paragraph at the end of this post, after I've sliced and diced Zalmay Khalilzad's October 19 op-ed for the New York Times, which is titled Get Tough on Pakistan. But it's a silly exercise to critique hot air; if I'm going to make an ass out of myself there are more entertaining ways I can do it.

The only reason I'm mentioning Khalilzad's piece, which I found while reading an unintentionally funny BBC report on U.S. aid to Pakistan, is that it's stuffed with so much misinformation it needs a fumigant more than a take-down. Look at this paragraph:
Pakistan has done, and continues to do, a great deal of good: many of the supply lines and much of the logistical support for NATO forces in Afghanistan run through Pakistan. Drones striking terrorists and militants in the tribal areas do so with the Pakistani government’s blessing and rely on Pakistani bases. And Pakistani security services have worked with the Central Intelligence Agency to capture hundreds of Qaeda operatives.
It's not doing good when you're charging an arm and a leg for services that allow you to rip off millions of dollars of supplies from NATO trucks -- supplies that end up for sale in your country's markets or in the hands of terrorists.

It's not doing good when the CIA is paying you a bounty for every person with a beard you kill and say, 'That's an al Qaeda terrorist.'

It's not doing good when you're paid a billion U.S. dollars a year to look the other way while the US carries out drone strikes inside your country.

None of that is "doing good." All of that is a cottage industry, and a very profitable one for Pakistan's military and the Pakistani mafias and Taliban gangs that filch from NATO supply trucks.

The above points are such old news that I won't bother to dig up links to news reports about them. But after explaining how much good Pakistan's military has done, Mr Khalilzad notes that Pakistan's military has also "hampered our military efforts; contributed to American, coalition and Afghan deaths; and helped sour relations between Kabul and Washington" and is hell-bent on messing up initiatives from Kabul that aren't in Pakistan's favor.

What does Mr Khalilzad propose as the solution?
Washington must offer Islamabad a stark choice between positive incentives and negative consequences.

The United States should demand that Pakistan shut down all sanctuaries and military support programs for insurgents or else we will carry out operations against those insurgent havens, with or without Pakistani consent. Arguments that such pressure would cause Pakistan to disintegrate are overstated. Pakistan’s institutions, particularly the country’s security organs, are sufficiently strong to preclude such an outcome.
Mr Khalilzad notes that before following his recommendation it would be necessary to consider the possible consequences and take preemptive action; e.g., arranging for alternate supply routes. Oh, snap! What does he think the NATO command has been trying to do?

And before we can wipe out the terrorists in Waziristan we first have to find them, which is not easy when they sneak over to Tajikistan or relocate to big cities in Pakistan every time the heat's on. Or is Mr Khalilzad suggesting that we carpet-bomb Karachi and Islamabad? Then what? Install a central provisional authority?

As to the positive incentives:
In exchange for demonstrable Pakistani cooperation, the United States should offer to mediate disputes between Pakistan and Afghanistan; help establish a trade corridor from Pakistan into Central Asia; and ensure that Pakistan’s adversaries do not use Afghanistan’s territory to support insurgents in Pakistani Baluchistan.
Knock! Knock!

IRGC: Who's there?

It's the United States of America, here to demand you quit messing around in Baluchistan.

[banging her head on the keyboard] Okay. I'm going to explain once again, just for the benefit of Mr Khalilzad, that there are a few things about Pakistan that have to be understood by American decision-makers before they can hope to mount a winning war effort in Afghanistan that lasts longer than a few months. I will undertake the chore in the next post, which will be on Monday morning.

For now, here's what I find funny about the BBC report I mentioned above:
The US is set to announce a significant package of military and security aid to Pakistan on Friday [today], the final day of the latest US-Pakistan strategic talks.

The multi-year aid package will be "no-strings-attached", officials say.

But the Obama administration will make clear it expects Islamabad to do more in the fight against Islamic militants.

Since 2005, Pakistan has received more than $1bn (£636.4m) of military aid a year from the US - and received close to $2bn for the last fiscal year.
So, Pakistan's military and civilian regimes got their way. In a talk he gave in Washington on April 10, 2009 at the Atlantic Council of the United States, Pakistan's Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani
[...] questioned the amount of aid that the U.S. proposes to devote to Pakistani civilian institutions -- a soon-to-be-introduced Senate bill proposes $7.5 billion over five years -- in light of the recent government programs to takeover insurance giant AIG at a cost of $85 billion and extend a lifeline to General Motors with loans worth $13.4 billion, saying that Congress “needs to revisit” the relatively small amount of aid to a country that the Obama administration calls part of the “central front” in the war on al-Qaeda.

But Haqqani urged the United States not to apply strict benchmarks to the funding, as the administration has promised. “Pakistan understands the need for accountability,” he said. “At the same time, there is a difference between accountability and intrusiveness.”
In other words, Screw your benchmarks, just give us the money. Now what's changed since that time to make the Obama administration believe that throwing good money after bad will make a difference?

To pile hilarity on top of mirth, yesterday The New York Times reported with a straight face:
Pakistani Troops Linked to Abuses Will Lose U.S. Aid

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will refuse to train or equip about a half-dozen Pakistani Army units that are believed to have killed unarmed prisoners and civilians during recent offensives against the Taliban, senior administration and Congressional officials said Thursday. [...]
Well I guess it is abusive to murder people. But ignoring the Times tip-toeing around the 'atrocity' word, the question is how the U.S. government can prevent the Pak army from using aid money they receive from the American taxpayers to equip those abusive units. The answer is that they can't, so the U.S. rebuke is a meaningless gesture.

To top off a week of merriment: Yesterday CIA director Leon Panetta announced that the CIA's stepped-up operations in Pakistan had taken "a serious toll" on the al Qaeda network in Pakistan. Two days earlier Praveen Swami, the (U.K.) Telegraph's Diplomatic Editor, had filed a report for the Telegraph headlined:
Al-Qaeda training camp uncovered in Tajikistan

Tajik troops have waged close quarter battles with al-Qaeda terrorists after uncovering a training camp in a remote valley that triggered warnings militants are spreading out of Afghanistan into its Central Asian neighbours.[...]
Al Qaeda would have a very immediate reason for mucking around in Tajikistan: the country is part of a route for NATO supply convoys that skirts Pakistan. (See the report from Yaroslav Trofimov I quoted yesterday.)