Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:06pm EDT
NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants the U.S. military to limit airstrikes against insurgents because they are killing too many civilians, the Afghan leader says in a U.S. television interview.
Civilian casualties in Afghanistan fuel resentment of foreign forces and Karzai's Western-backed government. He has repeatedly asked U.S. and NATO troops to do everything they can to minimize civilian deaths.
"The Afghan people understand that mistakes are made. But five years on, six years on, definitely, very clearly, they cannot comprehend as to why there is still a need for air power," Karzai told CBS program "60 Minutes," in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday, according to a partial text released by the network.
Asked if he wanted less use of air power, Karzai said, "Absolutely. Oh, yes, in clear words and I want to repeat that, [there are] alternatives to the use of air force and I will speak for it again through your media."
More than 370 civilians have been killed this year in NATO operations against militants, according to estimates by aid workers and Afghan officials.
NATO disputes this figure but acknowledges some civilians have been killed, mostly when Taliban insurgents attack from civilian houses.
Karzai faces growing criticism over rampant corruption, insecurity, booming drug cultivation and a failure to raise living standards in the country. He has warned that more civilian casualties would destabilize his government and threaten the continued presence of foreign troops.
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2 NATO Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan
By FISNIK ABRASHI
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Insurgents ambushed NATO-led forces in eastern Afghanistan, leaving two alliance troops dead and three others wounded, while a coalition airstrike in the south killed 18 suspected militants, officials said Friday.
The eastern clash occurred in the mountainous Korangal Valley in Kunar province late Thursday, after insurgents using rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons ambushed a joint NATO-Afghan foot patrol, a NATO statement said.
"The combined force repelled the insurgent attack with direct and indirect fire and close-air support," the statement said.
Several AK-47 assault rifles, used by insurgents, and the remains of at least one militant were recovered from the area of the battle, it said.
"The rough terrain in this mountainous region of Afghanistan and the time of day the engagement occurred made it difficult to confirm additional insurgent casualties," the statement said.
The wounded troops were transported to a military medical facility and were in stable condition.
NATO did not identify the nationalities of the dead and wounded soldiers. Most of the troops in that part of the country are American.
In the south, an airstrike on a group of Taliban fighters on Friday left 18 militants dead in the mountainous area of Daychopan district, in Zabul province, said Fazel Bari, Daychopan's district chief.
The strike follows a U.S.-led coalition and Afghan attack on a gathering of another group of Taliban militants on Wednesday in the same district that killed 10 insurgents.
Authorities recovered the dead bodies of 18 militants killed in the Friday strike, which also included foreigners, Bari said.
U.S.-led coalition and NATO-led troops could not immediately confirm that any airstrikes had taken place in that area. Casualty figures from remote battles are hard to verify independently.
Afghanistan this year has seen the heaviest fighting since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban. In all, more than 5,200 people have died in insurgency-related violence, most of whom were militants, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.
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Afghans need a decade to build their army: Hillier
War-torn country will require long-term help to recruit and train a military capable of handling its own security, Canada's top soldier says
OMAR EL AKKAD AND ALAN FREEMAN Globe and Mail (Canada) / October 26, 2007
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN and NOORDWIJK, THE NETHERLANDS -- Echoing the sentiments of many of his soldiers in Afghanistan, General Rick Hillier said yesterday it will be a decade before Afghanistan is able to field a professional military capable of managing its own security needs.
"It's going to take 10 years or so just to work through and build an army to whatever the final number that Afghanistan will have, and make them professional and let them meet their security demands here," Canada's chief of defence staff said.
His comments come at a crucial time for Western nations involved in the Afghan mission. Defence ministers from NATO alliance countries are currently in the Netherlands for talks that have largely been dominated by the future of the mission. A rift has formed between those countries actively engaged in the dangerous southern part of Afghanistan and those operating in the far-safer north.
Gen. Hillier is the latest - and most senior - in a string of Canadian military officials who've described Afghanistan's reconstruction as a long-term effort.
"I think most Canadians, living in the incredible country that we have, don't always see all the complexities of trying to rebuild a country and, in some cases, build a country from the 25 years of destruction that took place in Afghanistan," he said.
He also joined a growing chorus of NATO political and military leaders calling on European countries to take a bigger role in the war-torn southern provinces of Afghanistan.
At talks in the Netherlands, Danish Defence Minister Soeren Gade took time to illustrate the problems NATO faces in Afghanistan by referring to a multi-coloured map of the country issued by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, dotted with the flags of the United States, Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and other prominent members of the 37 nations participating in the 41,000-strong mission.
There's no flag flying over the southwestern province of Nimroz, he pointed out. NATO had plans to station troops there but so far the numbers aren't available.
"You need quite a few thousand soldiers and nobody wants to take the lead and send soldiers," Mr. Gade said in an interview at the end of a two-day meeting of defence ministers from the 26-member alliance at which the Afghan mission was the top agenda item.
The upshot is that the Taliban has free rein in a corner of the country adjacent to the volatile Helmand province where the Danes are serving alongside the British.
Denmark is in the process of ramping up its own force in Helmand to almost 700 from just under 400 and is adding four Leopard 2 tanks, inspired in part by Canada's successful use of tanks in neighbouring Kandahar.
Britain has also ramped up its forces in Helmand to a robust 7,700 as it scales down its operation in Iraq. Denmark, as well, has reduced its force in Iraq to just more than 100.
There are currently fewer than 40,000 Afghan soldiers in the entire country, of which two battalions are stationed in Kandahar. Most estimates of how many Afghan soldiers it will take to maintain security are in the range of 70,000.
Gen. Hillier said it takes about three years to train a single battalion, which normally consists of about 500 to 600 soldiers.
"You just don't build that overnight and the international community will have to be involved for some time to see this through to the final level where you've got a government that works effectively," he said.
On Wednesday, nine countries are reported to have made offers of more troops to the Afghan mission, including four that would be willing to move south, although NATO did not identify them. The immediate concern is the Netherlands, which is threatening to end its presence in Uruzgan province, also in the south, if it doesn't get more burden-sharing.
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Australia urges Europe to do more in Afghanistan
Fri Oct 26, 3:43 AM ET
SYDNEY (AFP) — Europe shonuld deploy more troops to the dangerous southern regions of Afghanistan, Australia's foreign minister said Friday as the country mourned its second soldier killed there in three weeks.
Alexander Downer said Australia would welcome forces from NATO's European members joining them in southern Afghanistan, the former stronghold of the extremist Taliban regime and now the focus of insurgent attacks.
"Many of the European NATO countries have their troops in the north, which is not free of Taliban activity, but it is a good deal quieter and a less threatening environment," Downer told reporters.
"We would like to see some of the restrictions that European parliaments have placed on their troops lifted."
His comments echo those made earlier this week by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who said restrictions on where European troops could be deployed and what they could do were putting NATO soldiers at a serious disadvantage.
Downer was speaking following the death of an elite Australian soldier in southern Uruzgan province who was killed by small arms fire while on patrol.
Special Air Services (SAS) Sergeant Matthew Locke's death late Thursday followed that of trooper David Pearce who died after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb on October 8.
Prime Minister John Howard said despite the likelihood of more fatalities, he would not flinch from his support for the US-led operations in Afghanistan or Iraq, where Australian troops are also serving.
"It always gets difficult in democratic societies if these conflicts go on for a long time," Howard told commercial radio.
"People do grow, with the passage of time, more weary of them; I understand that. But it can't alter the calculation somebody in my position has to make that it's in the national interest."
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Imperialist hangover behind British action in Iraq, Afghanistan: historian
Fri Oct 26, 7:03 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is a hangover from its imperial past, a distinguished military historian has said, accusing politicians of exaggerating the country's importance in the world.
Award-winning Cambridge University academic Correlli Barnett said Britain has delusions of grandeur about its role as a world power, which has led to the "ludicrous" over-commitment of its armed forces.
He also said Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his predecessor Tony Blair, and the leader of the main opposition Conservative Party, David Cameron, were deluded that Britain's influence was comparable to that of the United States.
At a seminar in Cambridge, Thursday to mark his 80th birthday, Barnett said politicians and officials had been exaggerating Britain's importance since before the end of World War II in 1945.
"Such exaggeration has remained the besetting sin of British total strategy right up to the present day and also remained a sure recipe for a discordance between military commitments and financial resources," he said.
Britain's governing elite of the last 60 years are "mental prisoners of Britain's past as a world and imperial power", indoctrinated about British pre-eminence at its fee-paying private schools and elite universities.
"At the present time, the British army and its air support are just too small to fight simultaneous large-scale guerrilla wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan," he said.
"In other words, a case of true overstretch. It is why our commitment in Iraq is being gradually cut back -- simply to enable us to concentrate our limited strength on Afghanistan."
Barnett's comments come as Britain prepares to cut back its 5,000-strong force in Iraq to 2,500 by early 2008 and concern about mounting military fatalities, plus shortages of equipment and manpower in Afghanistan.
Brown on Thursday called for greater "burden-sharing" among NATO forces in Afghanistan while the former UN envoy to Bosnia-Hercegovina, Paddy Ashdown, said Britain had "lost" in Afghanistan by failing to bring stability there.
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National interests hamper NATO in Afghanistan: Gates
HEIDELBERG, Germany (AFP) — US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that national restrictions on forces in Afghanistan were putting NATO troops at a "sizeable disadvantage" in the fight against the Taliban.
"Restrictions placed on what a given nation's forces can do and where they can go put this alliance at a sizeable disadvantage," Gates told a conference of European armies in Germany on the final stop of a six-day European trip.
"While there will be nuances particular to each country's rules of engagement, the strings attached to one nation's forces unfairly burden others, and have done real harm in Afghanistan," Gates said.
Gates did not not single out any country for criticism, but his comments appeared to be partly aimed at Germany, which is reluctant to deploy to the south of Afghanistan where most of the insurgent activity is focused.
In a meeting of NATO defence ministers in the Netherlands this week, German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung insisted that the reconstruction work carried out by 3,000 German troops in northern Afghanistan was just as important as fighting insurgents.
The ministers offered more troops for Afghanistan, although gave little concrete detail.
In a call for countries to make good on their pledges, Gates said the failure of countries to meet commitments "puts the Afghan mission -- and with it, the credibility of NATO -- at real risk."
Germany is part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that is trying to help spread the influence of President Hamid Karzai's weak central government across the country and encourage reconstruction.
However, the bulk of the troops fighting insurgents in southern Afghanistan are from the United States.
In western Germany, Gates visited the largest US airbase in Europe, Ramstein, and the Landstuhl military hospital where many of US servicemen wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq are treated.
He was then to fly back to Washington after a trip which also took in Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
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Pakistan’s intelligence agencies did not create Taliban: former Taliban FM
* Mutawakil doubts Taliban will attend Islamabad peace jirga
* Claims foreign troops needed until Afghans can resolve differences
* Says there is no such thing as ‘moderate’ Taliban
By Daud Khattak Daily Times (Pakistan) October 25, 2007
KABUL: A former Afghan diplomat has denied the claim that Pakistani intelligence agencies created the Taliban and aided their government, saying that the “roots of the Afghan problem lie inside Afghanistan”.
Maulvi Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, foreign minister in the Taliban regime, told Daily Times from his residence here that, “In my view, the root cause of the problem lies in Afghanistan and a solution must be sought within the war-devastated country.” He said Afghanistan’s internal situation, including the establishment of mini-states by warlords, infighting among mujahideen and widespread lawlessness in the wake of the Soviet pullout had led to the emergence of the Taliban, which had drawn support from all segments of Afghan society.
He said the best way of bringing peace to Afghanistan was to let the Afghans decide their own future without any outside interference. He appreciated the recent peace jirga between Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying the positive beginning could go a long way towards resolving Kabul-Islamabad disagreements. However, he added, the jirga “would not address internal issues facing Afghanistan”.
No Taliban at jirga: He said he did not believe the Taliban would attend the second jirga in Islamabad considering their opposition to the first jirga. He said the US-led coalition’s support was required for successful peace talks with the Taliban. “The US-led coalition, NATO troops and other international backers of the Afghan government must lend support to negotiations. It is the only way out of the existing quagmire,” he said.
He said the existing security situation was dismal, adding that the Afghan government had failed to bring about peace and stability by opting for war. They did not attempt to initiate dialogue after toppling the Taliban regime, he added.
Favours foreign troops: Mutawakil said he favoured the presence of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan until the various Afghan factions were independently able to resolve their problems. He said it would not be a speedy process and would require time and patience. He said the battles between Taliban insurgents and foreign troops would never end and could only lead to bad consequences for Afghanistan. “Whether balanced or otherwise, a war such as the one being fought by NATO and coalition forces in Afghanistan can never reach a logical conclusion,” opined the former minister.
Regarding the replacement of NATO and US troops with a force drawn from Muslim countries, Mutawakil said foreign armies were not the answer to the Afghan imbroglio. He also said neighbouring countries such as China, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia did not have a good history of participation in the region’s peace efforts.
No moderate Taliban: Concerning talks between “moderate” Taliban and some European countries, he said there was no such thing as a moderate Taliban. Seen as a moderate Taliban himself, Mutawakil confessed that the Taliban regime had made several mistakes. However, he said they would amend those in any future set up. He also said he thought that Mullah Omar was still controlling the Taliban. “Considering that no other man inside the movement has challenged him, it is enough to believe he is leading the militia,” he concluded.
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PM dismisses Hillier's Afghan assessment
Prime Minister's Office at odds with top soldier's 10-year time frame to train troops and police
October 26, 2007 - ALLAN WOODS TORONTO STAR, OTTAWA BUREAU
OTTAWA–The Prime Minister's Office has dismissed the blunt assessment from Canada's top soldier that the task of training Afghanistan's army would take at least five years longer than the 2011 end date the government laid out in last week's throne speech.
Gen. Rick Hillier, speaking at the end of a three-day visit to Kandahar, told reporters it will take "10 years or so" to build a national army that can defend the government against insurgents and potential external threats.
"You don't just build that overnight and the international community will have to be involved for some time to see this through to the final level where you've got a government that works effectively," Hillier said yesterday.
"It's going to take 10 years or so just to work through and build an army to whatever the final number that Afghanistan will have, and make them professional, and let them meet their security demands."
The goal of building up the army from its current count of 45,000 soldiers into a 70,000-strong force has taken on increasing importance among NATO member countries as it becomes politically more difficult to persuade nations to fight against a robust Taliban insurgency. Hillier said it takes about three years to train a battalion of up to 600 troops.
But Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the case in his Oct. 16 throne speech for a two-year extension of the military mission, saying that is what is needed to complete the training of the Afghan army and police.
"Our government believes this objective should be achievable by 2011," the speech said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier yesterday dismissed questions in the House of Commons about the discrepancy between Harper's and Hillier's assessments. However, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister, Sandra Buckler, stuck to the early end date, saying it was "achievable" and in line with the Afghanistan Compact, the agreement drawn up between the international community and the Afghan government. In her emailed statement, Buckler did not acknowledge Hillier's comments.
"We have said so many times before, and will continue to emphasize (that) it will be Parliament that will ultimately decide how long our Canadian Forces will remain in Afghanistan," she wrote.
The government has convened a panel chaired by former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley to examine the possible options for Canada's future in the war-torn country. After its findings are released in February, MPs will be asked to vote on whether to extend the mission or inform NATO that Canada will not remain in Afghanistan past February 2009.
But the debate is already raging, and the confusion that emerged yesterday set off a nasty debate in Ottawa that had the opposition accusing the government of lying to Canadians.
"This is an enormous discrepancy and it comes down to who's telling the truth about this war," said NDP Leader Jack Layton.
"If what we're saying is that it's an open-ended war in perpetuity then I think a lot of Canadians are going to want to express a real concern about that."
All of the opposition parties said they trusted Hillier's assessment over that of the Conservative government.
"I think that Gen. Hillier is telling the truth and Stephen Harper is in politics. Period," said Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe.
The confusion came at the end of a NATO meeting in the Netherlands aimed at boosting international participation for the coalition's mission in Afghanistan, particularly in the more dangerous southern provinces. Nine countries have reportedly come forward with offers of assistance, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Georgia.
The Germans have offered military trainers, but will restrict them to the more peaceful northern sections of the country. France has put up 50 military trainers bound for Uruzgan province where the Dutch are doing most of the fighting.
Even though Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Bernier, the foreign affairs minister, invested much time drumming up replacements or support for Canadian troops in Kandahar, there were no firm offers to send new troops to one of the country's most dangerous regions.
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European Parliament Backs Poppy For Medicine Production
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
October 25, 2007 -- European parliament adopted a recommendation on Thursday that Afghanistan's poppy crop should be used for production of pain-relieving medicines such as opium for developing countries.
European parliamentarians approved the recommendation by overwhelming majority - 368 for and only 49 against. The recommendation discussed in European Parliament is based on the research study of an international policy think tank Senlis Council.
The EU parliamentary report questioned the current strategy in fighting the drug trade which concentrates on destroying poppy crops while not helping the Afghan economy.
The Senlis Council's Executive Director, Emmanuel Reinert said that "Europe has a duty to help the Afghan government charter a new course for its counter-narcotics policies before the country becomes a narco-state. We have the potential to support Afghanistan's political stability and lift Afghanistan out of its current quagmire. The European Parliament's endorsement is an important first step in this regard."
"Poppy for Medicine is tailored to the realities of Afghanistan," said Reinert. "By linking the country's two most valuable resources - poppy cultivation and strong local village control systems, the controlled cultivation of poppy for the local production of morphine can be secured."
Afghan poppy production has increased drastically in recent years and turned into most of the world's heroin and helps fuel the Taliban insurgency in the country. The World Bank estimates almost 40 percent of Afghanistan's economic activity is opium-related and the country supplies 93 percent of the world's opium.
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Pakistan's nut that won't crack
By Mark LeVine Asia Times Online / October 26, 2007
The carnage that greeted former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on her return to Pakistan may have occurred in Karachi, but there is little doubt about the address from whence the order for the bloody attack was given: the badlands of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the neighboring Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the home bases of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Those who gave the orders for the bombing intended not merely to decapitate the soon to be consecrated government before it could assume power. As important was the need to preempt the well-advertised all-out assault on the militants in the frontier and tribal regions by the Pakistani military that was scheduled to start any day. Bhutto's return was the public symbol of the government's new, get tough attitude. "I know who these people are, I know the forces behind them," she explained to the New York Times.
Left unsaid, and unquestioned, was why Bhutto is so familiar with "these people", most of whom are hiding out in the NWFP: the governments she led during the late 1980s and mid-1990s were, in conjunction with Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence, among the most important sponsors of the Taliban.
Successive Pakistani governments supported the Taliban and the militants who would form the core of al-Qaeda not just because of their role in expelling the Soviets from Afghanistan. As important was the need to coopt and keep busy this potentially destabilizing new force in the complex political landscape of the NWFP.
The problem is that Pakistan's leaders were viewing the NWFP and FATA through the same distorted lens as the British did before them, seeing the region as a bastion of backward tribes who could be manipulated and cajoled into preserving a status quo that left most of the people living in the region among the most underdeveloped people on earth.
The trouble with tribes
The justification for such policies has long rested on the view of the region by outsiders as a primitive tribal system that is incapable of developing on its own terms, if at all (as one friend in Peshawar, a law professor and well-known rock artist, complained last time I visited him that "people call us 'walnuts;' that is, hard-headed and stupid. I'm regularly asked by Pakistanis in the south if I live in a mud hut."
This negative perception of supposedly tribal peoples is not unique to Pakistan. Ever since Europe "discovered" the Americas and began to gain control over Africa and South Asia over half a millennium ago, tribes and tribalism have been the object of fear, fascination, and above all confusion. And American no less than Pakistani fell prey easily to the allure of "tribes" as the explanatory catch-all for what ails the world.
American history is unimaginable without the ubiquitous image of the Indian "tribes" and their role as "noble savage" against whom the country's "frontier personality" developed. The Dutch, British and French empires also had an ambivalent relationship with what they defined as the "tribes" living in the societies with whom they came into contact. Dividing, classifying and managing them (often against each other) was central to successful European trade with, and ultimately control over, the Americas, Africa and South Asia.
Scholars have had a particularly tough time defining the term. A 1963 article in the British Journal of Sociology well summed up the problem, explaining that tribe was "an everyday word with a vengeance: probably everyone is quite sure what it means". The problem, of course, was that most people, including many academics, didn't quite know what it meant, and still don't.
The views of journalists, commentators and the public at large have been even more problematic. By and large, most people have simplistically assumed that any society that possessed tribes was technologically, politically and morally "inferior" to and "backwards" with regard to Europe and later the United States.
This view has changed little in mainstream policy-making or journalism, as demonstrated by the writings of many well-known commentators, who have often had a disproportionate influence on the formation of US foreign policy in the Muslim world.
For instance, Thomas Friedman famously argued in his first best-seller, From Beirut to Jerusalem, Arab peoples are fundamentally different than the West because they "have not fully broken from their primordial identities". The best way to understand the "tribalism" governing Arab societies, he argues, is to return to the "nomadic Bedouins of the desert" in 7th-century Arabia. In other words, Arabs living in the Moroccan Sahara in 1989, the year the book was published, differed little from their ancestors who migrated from Arabia 1,400 years ago (later Friedman would come to believe that globalization was the one force that could flatten out local particularities and open the way for the full modernization of the Arab/Muslim world).
Robert Kaplan, whose articles and best-selling books have equally influenced government policy-making, also draws on tribal imagery for his analyses. In his Balkan Ghosts, which influenced president Bill Clinton's decision not to intervene in the Yugoslav civil war, he agues that the war was the result of irrational and irreconcilable "ancient hatreds", which made Western intervention futile and even foolhardy. More recently, Kaplan has argued that the "lawless frontier" and "unreconstructed" - that is, backward and uncivilized - "tribal people" of the Pakistani-Afghan frontier are principle causes for the spread of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in these regions.
Perhaps the most well-known and influential tribalist argument is the clash of civilizations thesis of Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington. This theory enlarges the tribal model to the level of civilization, and then argues that Islamic civilization - as if Islam can be reduced to one simplistic representation - is incapable of change, development or even rational behavior. Because of this, the Muslim world must inevitably clash with the secularized, rational and enlightened West.
Of course, this does not mean that there aren't political groupings in the Muslim world which define themselves in ways that roughly correspond to the English word tribe. From Pre-Islamic times through today, Arab and Muslim societies more broadly have defined and differentiated their identities through kinship and similar relationships that fit the broad usage of the term.
They trace their lineages to common ancestors, and ensure communal solidarity - what the great Arab sociologist Ibn Khaldun famously termed asabiyya - through marriages to members of the same clan and other mechanisms for securing loyalty to the tribe (qabila, a word whose Arabic root connotes hospitality and agreement). Tribal affiliations and loyalties have long played a crucial role in securing rights to land, particularly in the Afghan-Pakistani border regions that today are part of the NWFP and FATA.
Tribes and the foundations of Pakistani history
Both regions, which together comprise almost 100,000 square kilometers, are composed of at least a dozen tribes belonging, largely, to the Pashtun ethnic group. Pashtuns have long been known for their refusal to submit to foreign domination, and the more than a dozen tribes of the regions that would become the NWFP and FATA fought a succession of outside powers in the 18th and 19th centuries, including the Mughal, Afghan, Persian and British empires, in their quest to retain as much local autonomy as possible.
The British alone engaged in well over four dozen "expeditions" in the frontier or tribal areas between 1847 and 1908, as part of the struggle for control of these strategically important regions against Czarist Russia. Despite the regular and large scale use of force - in the first war with the Pashtuns, 14,800 soldiers went into the tribal areas, only one came out alive - the British never managed to secure full control over them. This was a primary reason why the government of India acquiesced to relatively wide local autonomy for the regions compared with much of India or in other colonies.
Indeed, by 1877, the British administrator of the "frontier districts" described the regions as "a spectacle unique in the world ... where, after 25 years of peaceful occupation, a great civilized power has obtained so little influence over its semi-savage neighbors, and acquired so little knowledge of them ... There is absolutely no security for British life a mile or two beyond our border."
The NWFP was created by the British in 1905 as a reflection of the need to offer significant autonomy to the region's Pashtun majority if a semblance of order was to be maintained. Its seven agencies or districts reflected not just the power of Pashtun identity, but the enduring impact of Arab, Hindu, Sikh, Dravidian, Sindhi and Punjabi influences, and the confusing interplay of caste and tribal structure as well. Religiously, Sufism rather than the orthodox Islam today associated with the Taliban was dominant in the region.
Tribes, criminals and the law
Given the circumstances that led to its creation, it's not surprising that the tribes of the NWFP have born the stamp of criminality since the days of British rule. First, they were defined by the "Criminal Tribes Act" of 1871. Until 1917, tribes were classified as "Backwards Classes" or "primitive" and were divided into "criminal and wandering tribes, aboriginal tribes and untouchables".
Even today, the region is governed by the "Frontier Crimes Regulation Ordinance", which continues the centuries-old tradition of governments equating the frontier regions with lawlessness and criminality.
The British placed Peshawar, capital of the NWFP, under direct federal administration to ensure a modicum of control of the surrounding areas by the central government. But in the NWFP and what would become the FATA, tribal customs were allowed to govern most aspects of people's lives, as they do today.
Politically, when provincial elections were held beginning in 1935, the leaders of the main tribes, or maliks (often referred to as "feudal lords" in the West, and by some Pakistanis as well) were most often elected to the local or national assemblies, extending their local power by participating in the emerging British, and then Pakistani, state structures.
As the central government attempted to exert greater power over the frontier and tribal regions, however, the long-standing tensions between the secular laws of the state, sharia, or Islamic law, and 'urf, or local customs, grew. Aggravating the situation was the fact that the NWFP and FATA were home to a particularly powerful code of ethics and behavior, known as Pashtunwali, or the Pashtun way.
Pashtunwali is based on the powerful obligations to provide hospitality and sanctuary, even to one's enemies, yet at the same time to exact revenge at all costs against any slights against one's honor, or that of members of one's family, clan or tribe. The code also requires Pashtuns to abide by the decisions of the council of tribal leaders when they meet in the assembly known as the jirga, which decides on disputes and feuds.
The overall system long served not just to maintain honor (which is what most Western commentators focus on), but equally important, to maintain a rough equality and balance of power between and within tribes. This function is crucial because in the imperial as well as globalized eras, external forces have exercised power precisely by disturbing local equality, or at least stability, in order to create new political orders more favorable to their interests.
Indeed, this process generated significant instability in the tribal regions in the decades leading up to the creation of Pakistan in 1947, as economic transformations in India and neighboring regions increased the power of previously minor tribal leaders at the expense of the more established maliks. They in turn aligned themselves with the British and later central Pakistani governments to retain their hold on power.
As is so often the case in countries under colonial rule, the very system that the British imposed to maintain order politically was threatened by the instability their economic and military policies generated. As time wore on, the increasing power, corruption and exploitation of the "big Kahns" (as the maliks are also known)encouraged the rise of a new generation of charismatic religious figures, and eventually the Taliban. Their egalitarian and purified vision of a just Islamic order was more in line with local customs and ideals than were the actions of the politically connected major land-owning maliks.
What is particularly dangerous about this dynamic is that the coming together of the Taliban and the tribesmen brought into synergy two seemingly contradictory positions: the anti-nationalist and pan-Islamic identity of the Taliban, many of whom came from outside Pakistan, and the particularistic and locally rooted identity of the region's tribal groups.
The Taliban brought in their own, much needed financial resources to the region, and their activities were supported by then president Zia ul-Haq (to help legitimize his dictatorial rule), by the United States and Saudis, and by remittances sent home by migrants working in the wealthy Gulf countries. The local people offered hospitality, generations of anger at the central government, and a history of violent rebellion under the banner of Islam.
This combination of economic, geostrategic, political and ideological interests made the NWFP and FATA a natural base for the Taliban and jihadi movements after the Afghan war. The growth of the heroin and arms trades, and other cross-border smuggling (especially of Chinese-made goods, much of them pirated), also increased the power of the new religious forces and the growing number of tribal leaders who were aligned with them.
As the US Institute of Peace concluded in a 2002 conference on the NWFP, "These new leaders have effectively captured the various forms of simmering discontent within the tribes and have emerged as more legitimate defenders of tribal interests. The foundations of Pashtun identity have changed with perhaps a permanent turn toward Islamism and movement away from traditional secular, tribal leadership."
Complicating matters even more was that the central government's main intelligence network, the Inter-Services Intelligence, simultaneously encouraged, infiltrated and sometimes fought against the Pakistani Taliban and various jihadi groups.
A landscape filled with contradictions
The founders of Pakistan, Muhammad Jinna and Allama Iqbal, imagined their country as a "land of the spiritually pure and clean" people. Their vision never approached reality, as from the start Pakistan was plagued by rampant poverty, lack of development, government repression and systemic corruption. Indeed, the new state quickly reinforced the most corrupt and exploitative dynamics of British rule, a reality that helped drive the leadership of East Pakistan to declare independence as Bangladesh in 1971.
The Pashtun peoples of the NWFP and FATA have never had a cohesive enough nationalist identity to break away from the rest of the country. In fact, their relative independence depended on the region's continued function as a buffer between Pakistan and its Western neighbors, as well as on the very absence of state authority that has been an important cause of the region's many economic and political woes.
The ambivalence towards the state by local forces reflects the larger contradictions of life in the NWFP and FATA, which literally jump out at you when you travel through them. Signs welcoming you to the "land of hospitality" alternate with those that warn foreigners to keep out. Smugglers' markets sell the latest high-tech electronics, as well as advanced weapons, drugs and pornography. Innumerable English language and computer schools, and one of Pakistan's most venerable universities, Islamia College, sit next to squalid refugee camps, in a region plagued by rampant illiteracy.
The two regions are awash in money, but most is derived from the local gray and black economies. The state pledges increased funds for local development, yet 60 years after independence it hasn't managed to build a modern road into the provincial capital of Peshawar. The government decries the prevalence of tribal customs, yet it continues to administer the regions based on customary practices such as the collective punishment of tribes.
Dictatorship is defended by appeals to fighting the terror it helped breed, while agreements designed to rein in the Taliban (such as the much-criticized 2006 Miramshah Agreement between the government and tribal and Taliban leaders in North Waziristan) wind up helping the Taliban and al-Qaeda to regroup and grow.
And now, the political situation has become so contradictory as to border on the absurd.
Former premier Bhutto is being called on to save the country from the Salafis, when it was her government that did the most to build up the Taliban. She is supposed to bring a breath of political fresh air (which would be much appreciated, given the pollution levels across the country), but she was twice removed from power because of corruption (Interpol even issued arrest warrants for Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, otherwise known as "Mr Ten Percent" for the kickbacks he demanded from businesses during her time as prime minister).
It is hard to imagine what Bhutto will do that President General Pervez Musharraf hasn't already done, or how she will succeed where he has, at least in Washington's eyes, failed. Indeed, it should surprise no one when Bhutto proves as incapable - or, as likely, unwilling - to crush the Taliban and al-Qaeda as previous governments have been, including her own.
That's because ultimately, the tragic reality of Pakistan is that the forces tearing the country apart are the same ones that are holding it together.
The central government is too weak and corrupt to implant or impose a strong, national identity or program of development in the manner that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk did in Turkey or Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin did in the Soviet Union. The very process of doing so would likely trigger widespread social unrest, disintegration and even civil war.
The suicide bombings against Bhutto's homecoming procession are only a taste of the chaos and large-scale violence that would erupt if a politician or party actually challenged the finely honed corruption and horse-trading that has defined Pakistani politics for generations. But not challenging the system is equally no answer, as it is clearly approaching the point of entropy.
Although its causes would owe as much to economic and political inequalities as to religious or tribal ideologies, Pakistan's slide into chaos, or worse, would inevitably be interpreted as yet another example of "ancient tribal hatreds" dooming a developing country to perpetual war and poverty.
Only this country is a nuclear weapons state that is home to the world's most dangerous terrorists. And unlike Bosnia or Rwanda, the United States would be forced to intervene, fulfilling Osama bin Laden's wildest dreams when he turned commuter planes into cruise missiles on that warm September morning over the island of Manhattan.
Mark LeVine is professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture and Islamic studies, University of California-Irvine, and author of Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil (Oneworld, 2005).
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Attack targets pro-Taliban cleric
The Associated Press - 10/25/2007
PESHAWAR - Security forces backed by helicopters attacked a stronghold of a pro-Taliban cleric in northwestern Pakistan on Friday, trading fire with his militant supporters near the scene of a suicide attack that killed 20 people, police said.
The fighting broke out in the village of Imam Dheri where the cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, has a sprawling seminary. Earlier this week, some 2,500 paramilitary troops were deployed in the surrounding district of Swat to combat his militant supporters.
Militants in the village and security forces were firing with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and other weapons across the rushing Swat River, witnesses said. Hundreds of residents fled, local shop-owner Rahman Khan said.
Residents said they saw four helicopters hovering over the area and could hear loud explosions from heavy weapons fire. Mohammed Zubair, 35, said he saw one of the choppers firing rockets near Fazlullah's house.
"The security forces attacked a building where Maulana Fazlullah had been appearing in recent days to urge his followers to target the Pakistan army, police and other security forces," said Muhib Ullah, a local police official, in the nearby town of Mingora.
Ullah said it was unlikely Fazlullah was inside the seminary. In an FM radio broadcast on Wednesday, Fazlullah reportedly announced he was shifting to neighboring mountainous district, Kohistan. There was no immediate word on casualties.
Also Friday, militants fired at a helicopter carrying a senior army officer. They missed the target and the helicopter made safe landing, said another local police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media. The army declined to comment, referring questions to the provincial government.
On Thursday, a suicide car bomber hit a truck carrying Frontier Constabulary troops through a crowded area of Mingora, killing 19 soldiers and a civilian, and wounding 35.
The devastating attack underlined the worsening security situation in Pakistan, particularly in the conservative region near the border with Afghanistan where militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda increasingly hold sway. The rise of militancy in the region has shaken the authority of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in its war on terror.
Fazlullah's spokesman denied the cleric's involvement in the bombing, saying he wanted peace in the region and only wanted to impose Islamic law.
Swat, until recently regarded as one of Pakistan's main tourist destinations, lies about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the city of Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province.
Fazlullah is the leader of Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammed, a banned pro-Taliban militant group which sent thousands of volunteers to fight in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
The blast came a week after the bloody assassination attempt in the southern city of Karachi on ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who plans to start traveling elsewhere in Pakistan on Saturday.
Bhutto, whose grand homecoming to Pakistan after an eight-year exile was shattered by a suicide bombing that killed 136 people, is widely seen as a possible partner of Musharraf in fighting extremism if she fares well in upcoming parliamentary elections.
Bhutto is due to go to her hometown of Larkana on Saturday to pay homage at her father's tomb, about 430 kilometers (270 miles) northwest of Karachi. She also wants to go to Lahore and the capital of Islamabad despite fears of another attack.
Bhutto has blamed Islamic militants for last week's attack on her convoy in Karachi, but also accused elements in the government and security services of complicity in assassination plots, demanding international experts be called in to help in the investigation. The government has rejected such a move.
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War without end
Oct 25th 2007 | KABUL From The Economist print edition
Not winning, but not losing either
THE first flakes of snow are settling in the high passes along Afghanistan's eastern border. Within a few weeks the infiltration routes from Pakistan will be blocked to the Taliban, and the upland areas of Afghanistan will become unsuited to guerrilla warfare until the spring thaw.
Despite the Taliban's bold predictions of an apocalyptic “spring offensive” earlier this year, the NATO commanders leading the fight against them feel they were on the front foot during the summer. Since January almost 6,000 people have been killed, a 50% increase on last year. They included 200 NATO soldiers and more than 3,000 alleged Talibs. Insurgent violence is up by 20% on 2006. NATO claims this is largely because its forces have pushed into areas formerly held by the Taliban.
Nonetheless, as NATO's defence ministers gathered this week in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, few observers doubt that the Afghan insurgency has years to run. The Taliban seem to have enough recruits, as well as a refuge and logistical base in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas. They also have enough funds, an estimated 40% coming from the drug trade.
“The only way the Taliban can be defeated is with strong Afghan government, strong Afghan security forces and a wedge driven between the insurgents and the people,” says NATO's commander in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill. He accepts that NATO's role is that of stopgap, as billions of dollars go into building the Afghan security forces.
An estimated 20-30% of the population in the south support the Taliban. The number of Taliban fighters lies between 6,000 and 20,000. Some 6,000 Taliban have been reported killed since 2005, with no sign that the loss has dented the insurgents' capability. Western diplomats generally accept that killing Taliban fighters will not, by itself, end the insurgency.
Suicide-bombings were all but unknown in Afghanistan until 2005. This year has seen more than 120. Roadside bombings are also increasing, as the Taliban adopt the tactics that have worked for Iraqi insurgents. NATO commanders claim this is a sign of desperation. British and American special forces have focused on attacking the Taliban leadership. In May they killed the Taliban's ground commander in the south, Mullah Dadullah Akhund. By one estimate, more than 50 mid-level commanders have been killed in Helmand province alone.
Local tribal elders say that the Taliban has taken severe punishment in the south. In Helmand there are reports of a lack of local willingness to fight for the Taliban. There is much talk of prising away “moderate Taliban” through negotiation. But Taliban fighters are now appearing in previously placid provinces such as Herat, Wardak and Badghis. General McNeill admits that NATO's nearly 35,000 troops are not enough to take and hold all parts of the country. In Noordwijk, a number of countries responded to America's plea for more soldiers, not so much for combat but to help train Afghan forces.
The insurgency now has more clearly the form of a single, loosely co-ordinated insurrection spanning western Pakistan and southern and eastern Afghanistan. NATO is publicly divided. The Taliban, too, are fragmented. Far from being the monolithic Islamists they were in 2001, they now span various groups with differing motivations. Alongside the diehard madrassa-trained Talibs are growing numbers of foreigners with al-Qaeda links. Less committed, so-called “tier-2” fighters are drawn to fight for many reasons: unemployment; to protect illegal opium crops; or to obey tribal loyalties.
Local politics also infects the insurgency. In Helmand, for instance, the Itzakzai tribe, feeling excluded from power since 2001, are big Taliban supporters. Many Afghans in the south would support any force offering a real hope of security and justice. On those counts, neither the Taliban nor the corruption-plagued Afghan government and its Western backers have yet made a convincing case.
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Wall Street Journal, 10/26/2007
It's been six years since the Taliban regime fell, and Afghans are still optimistic about their future, according to a new national poll. But unlike last year's survey, worries about security are mounting. Some 46% of the survey's 6,623 respondents cite "security" as the biggest problem facing Afghanistan, up from 27% last year.
Little wonder, since the Asia Foundation poll was conducted in June, when Afghans had just witnessed a major spate of terrorist attacks. While 86% of respondents rate Kabul's security situation as "very good" or "quite good," the poll shows that Afghans farther out, especially in the west, southwest and south, feel significantly less safe.
Despite the upswing in concern, Afghans do see their security situation improving somewhat. The survey finds that most people perceive ordinary lawlessness, rather than insurgency or terrorism, as their greatest security worry. The percentage who single out the Taliban or warlords as the biggest problem facing the country is down significantly, at 17% this year from 32% last year. On a local level, 66% of Afghans say their security is "very good" or "quite good" in their particular area. Out of those polled, only 18% were victims of crime last year.
Part of that confidence may rest in Afghans' views on their nascent national crime-fighting organizations. Both the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police win extremely high marks from respondents for their perceived probity -- 90% "strongly" or "somewhat" agree that the army is "honest and fair with the Afghan people," and 86% strongly or somewhat agree to a similar statement about the police. Afghans are a resolute and upbeat people, and the country has come a long way since its Taliban days. Some 42% of respondents said they think the country is moving in the "right direction," and another 25% allow that some things are going right even as other things go wrong. Ironically, heightened security concerns may be a sign of progress -- after 30 years dodging bullets, people now think their government should do better.
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'No sign of increased Iranian influence in Afghanistan'
NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Pajhwok Afghan News): While there has been concrete evidence of Iranian influence in Afghanistan in terms of supply of explosives to Taliban, there has been no indication of an increase in it, a top US army official said Wednesday.
As far as Iranian influence goes in Afghanistan, we have seen weapons come across the border. We have seen a number of indicators that say Iran is attempting to influence and is attempting to push higher technology accelerants into Afghanistan, the official added.
Major General Richard J. Sherlock, director for operation planning and Joint Chief of Staff, told a press briefing at the pentagon: I've not seen anything that indicates there's been any increase in that (trend).
At the same time, he said: There have been a number of operations that ISAF, the NATO force, has taken in all regions in Afghanistan to try to stem that. I think they would be in a better position to talk specifically as to what the levels are in the regions than I am in.
Availability of Iranian arms and explosives to the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan has been a major issue of concern to the US in the past few months. However, the Afghan government has repeatedly said there has been no concrete evidence of such arms supplies. It is, however, monitoring such reports.
Lalit K. Jha
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Central Asian states to meet on deeper interaction
MANILA, Oct 24 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Eight member countries of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) programme will discuss ways to deepen interaction and integrate more effectively with world markets at a meeting in Tajikistan early next month.
Bringing together ministers and senior officials from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, the two-day sixth ministerial conference of CAREC will be held in Dushanbe from November 2 -3.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said senior representatives of CARECs six-partner multilateral institutions (MI), bilateral and other regional organisations would also attend the meeting. Ministers will likely consider at the conference two wide-ranging initiatives aimed at strengthening cooperation.
According to an ADB press release, the first initiative is the CAREC Transport and Trade Facilitation Strategy, which would support the development of six strategic transport corridors crisscrossing the region, thereby improving access of these economies to each other and to global markets.
The press release said through trade facilitation, member countries would work to enhance the efficiency of trade as well as transparency and awareness of rules, regulations and procedures.
Craig Steffensen, Head of ADBs CAREC Unit, said: These efforts will improve the flow of people and goods around the region and across borders, providing a firm foundation for sustained growth.
Establishment of the CAREC Institute, which will have two main purposes, is second initiative. The first is to enhance the capabilities of CAREC government officials to engage in regional cooperation processes and to plan and implement regional cooperation projects.
Secondly, the press release added, the institute would outline new approaches to regional challenges based on international best practices, empirical research and policy analysis.
Implementation of these strategies and initiatives will result in a substantial deepening of regional economic cooperation and progress toward our long-term vision of Good Neighbours, Good Partners and Good Prospects, Steffensen hoped.
CAREC is an ADB-supported initiative to encourage economic cooperation in Central Asia. Initiated in 1997, the programme to date has focussed on regional initiatives in transport, trade facilitation, trade policy, and energy critical to improving the economic performance of the region and the livelihoods of all people - especially of the poor.
The Manila-based bank is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through pro-poor sustainable economic growth, social development and good governance. In 2006, ADB approved loans and grants for projects totaling $8.5 billion and technical assistance amounting to almost $242 million.
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Hundreds rally against poppy cultivation in Nangarhar
JALALABAD, Oct 24 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Hundreds of people including tribal elders and growers rallied against poppy cultivation in the eastern Nangarhar province on Wednesday.
Participants of the peaceful rally, marching through the main bazaar of Chaparhar district, shouted through loudspeakers: We will neither plant poppies nor allow its cultivation.
The hour-long protest, which converted into a public meeting after some time, was addressed by tribal elders, who highlighted the perils of poppy plantation. They urged farmers to stop cultivating the outlawed crop.
Haji Sher Baz Khan, speaking on the occasion, accused the government of rejecting peoples genuine demands for alternative livelihood despite their willingness to cooperate with the authorities in eliminating the scourge.
All residents of Chaparhar had unanimously decided against cultivating poppies, he claimed, asking the rulers to reciprocate their gesture by helping the farmers who shunned the opium crop.
Syed Azim, another elder from the area, told Pajhwok Afghan News they had promised Provincial Council chief Fazli Hadi Shinwari they would not grow the illicit crop. Anyone breaching the vow would be turned over to the government, he warned.
For his part, Shinwari said a 50-member jirga had been constituted to ensure poppies were grown nowhere in the district. The Provincial Council head was confident the jirga would translate its pledge into action.
Mines defused: Provincial discovered and defused three landmines in the fifth police district of Jalalabad late Tuesday evening. Police spokesman Col. Abdul Ghafoor said the explosives were found near an ice factory.
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