Thursday, October 06, 2011

Secret of the Taliban's success


No big secret; follow the writings of all guerrilla leaders from Achilles to Ho Chi Minh

BBC Islamabad, Pakistan
10/05/2011

Ten years ago, Taliban fighters in their thousands abandoned power, fled their military posts and melted away into the countryside, allowing Western-led forces to capture Afghanistan without a fight.

Tactical, not strategic
Today, that rag-tag militia has evolved into a sophisticated guerrilla force which has recently hit several high-value targets and all but derailed American plans for a smooth and successful drawdown of troops.

Significantly, they have achieved this despite the absence of a charismatic leader, a unified chain of command and a politico-economic vision.

    So how did they do it?

   Until three years after their government was ousted by coalition forces in October 2001, there was little Taliban activity in Afghanistan.

    "Taliban were initially welcomed by the Afghan people for bringing a four-year long civil war to an end, but when they started to implement their strict Islamic code, the people got fed up," says Brig (retired) Mehmood Shah, a former head of security for Pakistan's north-western tribal areas.

    "People welcomed the Americans [because] they saw them as their liberators. There was no room for the Taliban to stage a comeback immediately."

    "I think the Pakistani military... tolerated the Taliban and also helped them”
     Hasan Askari Rizvi, Defence analyst

    By 2006, however, the Taliban had infiltrated large parts of the south - especially the provinces of Zabul, Kandahar and Helmand.

    By 2008, they were spreading out north towards Kabul.

    Brig Shah says the Americans made two mistakes which squandered their advantage.

    "They focused on military objectives instead of stabilisation and development. And they soon went to fight a war of choice in Iraq, abandoning the war of necessity that had brought them to Afghanistan."

Utilizing captured enemy superior weapons
The lack of reconstruction, and corruption among government officials at a time when millions of refugees were returning from Iran and Pakistan, led to widespread anger and fuelled insurgency, he says.
 
    Sanctuary in Pakistan

    But many analysts also point to the role of Pakistan, from where the Taliban had emerged in 1994, and where most of them fled in 2001.

    Many feel the current Afghan insurgency was born in the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan.
While the rest of Afghanistan was quiet, they say, Waziristan was alive with Taliban activity that then made banner headlines around the world.

    In 2002, and again in 2004, there were skirmishes between the Taliban and Pakistani troops, which were followed by a series of peace deals with the army that left the Taliban virtually in control of most of Pakistan's tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

    Most analysts agree - whether publicly or in private - that Pakistan's security establishment allowed the Taliban to turn Waziristan into a militant sanctuary despite having the capacity to eliminate them.

Utilizing indigenous troops
"I think the military was divided on the issue. It tolerated them, and also helped them," says Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi, a defence analyst.

Coalition troops suffered their earliest casualties in south-eastern Afghanistan, just across the border from Waziristan.

    It was the fighting in the south-east, and later in the north-east - in Afghanistan's Kunar province, which is adjacent to the Pakistani tribal districts of Bajaur and Mohmand - which took up most of their attention during 2002-06.

    These developments eclipsed the concentration of Taliban fighters in Pakistan's south-western province of 
Balochistan, who started to quietly infiltrate Zabul, Kandahar and Helmand provinces from Toba Kakar, Chaman, Quetta and Chaghai areas.

    This development remained unattended both by the Pakistani military and coalition troops in Afghanistan.
The results were predictable enough.

    Western officials admit that until 2008-09, coalition forces in the south were unable to hold areas which were important for the Taliban - such as large parts of central Kandahar and southern Helmand where the Taliban set up bomb-making factories, arms caches and defensive positions - and at the same time protect their own lines of communication.
 
    'Punjabi Taliban'

    Since the "troop surge" announced by President Obama in 2010, coalition forces have been able to dislodge the Taliban from their entrenched positions in Kandahar and Helmand.

    But the insurgency has now spread wider, to areas around the capital, Kabul, and even to the formerly peaceful provinces of northern Afghanistan.

    The Taliban now seem to be relying more on suicide bombings, and spectacular gun-and-bomb attacks to hit targets of great psychological value.

Making the most out of terror as a weapon
And there is an unending supply of new - and better trained - fighters entering Afghanistan from Pakistani areas, notably Waziristan.

Credible sources tell the BBC that these fighters are mainly Pakistanis, locally called the Punjabi Taliban, who specialise in gun-and-bomb attacks and constitute a major part of the Waziristan-based Haqqani network.

    According to these sources, since 2009 these fighters have been travelling up to the border in Pakistani military vehicles, presumably to avoid missile strikes by CIA-operated drones.

    A Pakistani military source in the region admits collaboration with these fighters.

    The army spokesman, Maj-Gen Athar Abbas, rejects this as "malicious and fabricated".

    "Nothing can be farther from the truth," he wrote back in a recent text message to me.

   But since the recent accusations by US officials that some attacks in Kabul may have been ordered by 
Pakistan's ISI intelligence service, questions over the military's actual role in the Afghan insurgency are now being raised in various quarters within Pakistan.

    Many in the West have long held that the key to peace in Afghanistan lies with the Pakistani military.

    The coming months will show if that is really the case, and whether Pakistan agrees to comply with the demands of the international community. 


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The 5th Estate is making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.




Iraq says no immunity for US troops after 2011


Iraqis' have finally reached (the  next) the breaking point

Al Jazeera
010/05/2011

Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has won enough backing from Shia, Sunni and Kurdish political blocs to keep some US soldiers in Iraq as military trainers, but without granting them immunity if they commit crimes.

    Baghdad and Washington must still negotiate over how many troops will stay on and how long they will stay after the December 31 deadline for their withdrawal from Iraq.

No more blank check
"The leaders agreed on the need to train the Iraqi forces and to complete their arming as soon as possible and on the need to support the Iraqi government," said Ross Nuri Shawis, Iraq's deputy prime minister, reading a statement.

    He continued: "The people who attended the meeting agreed there is no need to grant immunity, in addition to that they suggested training should take place in Iraqi military bases only."

    Ali al-Dabbagh, Iraqi government spokesman, said the number of trainers would be decided according to Iraqi needs.

    Only supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, an anti-US Shia leader, rejected the accord. His Mehdi Army militia once battled US troops, but he is now a key ally of al-Maliki in parliament.

Immunity issue

    Immunity from prosecution is a key issue for the Pentagon, which has resisted the risk of American soldiers ending up in an Iraqi court.

    Last August, Admiral Mike Mullen, the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US would only consider an immunity deal if it were passed by the Iraqi parliament.

U.S. patrol in Baghdad
The immunity issue is equally contentious for Iraqis who are still trying to regain their sovereignty now eight years after the US-led campaign to topple former leader Saddam Hussein.

David Mack, a former US ambassador and state department official, told Al Jazeera: "It's the very strong view of the Pentagon and the US military with the support of the US Congress that American military personnel engaged in missions with the agreement of a local government should be immune from prosecution."

    Mack added: "This is a longstanding of legal view and in some places we have special treaties with the government such as the case with US military in Japan, for example, and Germany."

    A US Embassy official speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation said the embassy was "reviewing the [Iraqi] statement". The official said the embassy would "talk with leaders on what this means specifically".

Training presence
    Iraqi political leaders have been wrestling for months with whether to ask some American forces to stay past their December 31 departure date.

    There are currently an estimated 43,500 American troops in the country. Under a 2008 security agreement, all are required to leave by the end of 2011.

    Iraqi leaders announced in August that they were opening talks with the US on maintaining some sort of training presence in the country past this year.

    But there has been little traction since then as the US military continues to draw down its forces.

    Washington is considering leaving 3,000 to 5,000 troops to train Iraq's police and military, according to US officials familiar with the discussions but who spoke on condition of anonymity.

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The 5th Estate is making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.





Grave containing up to 60 people found at Zimbabwe school


Victims of Mugabe's 5th Brigade continue to surface

The Guardian
By David Smith
10/05/2011

A mass grave containing up to 60 victims of a massacre by President Robert Mugabe's troops has reportedly been discovered by children playing football at a Zimbabwe school.

    The pupils stumbled on human bones sticking out of the ground after their football pitch caved in during a game, according to New Zimbabwe.com. The remains are thought to belong to victims of the 1980s Gukurahundi massacre, in which an estimated 20,000 civilians were killed by Mugabe's feared Fifth Brigade in the western Matabeleland province.

Murdering Madman:  Robert Mugabe
 Moses Mzila Ndlovu, the minister for national healing, reconciliation and integration, reportedly visited the site at St Paul secondary school in Lupane last Friday.

He was quoted by New Zimbabwe.com as saying: "Villagers told me that St Paul and several other local schools were used as detention points by the Fifth Brigade. Dozens of people were detained, interrogated and executed before their bodies were dumped in mass graves dug up by the detainees."

    He added: "The grave is roughly 5x5 metres and locals told me there could be anything between 30 and 60 people buried there."

    School authorities have temporarily refilled the graves and the minister said he would be asking the cabinet to agree on a programme of reburials on a wider scale across Matabeleland and the Midlands.

    The Gukurahundi massacre followed a bitter power struggle between Mugabe and his rival Joshua Nkomo. The Fifth Brigade, which received training in North Korea, was accused of indiscriminate killings and torture of Nkomo's supporters while the world turned a blind eye. Gukurahundi – a Shona word for the spring rains that sweep away dry season chaff – remains an open wound of Mugabe's 31-year rule.

    David Coltart, Zimbabwe's education minister, said: "It is inevitable that these types of revelations will occur as there are numerous mass graves throughout Matabeleland. It does underscore the need for a meaningful process of truth telling and reconciliation."

    Coltart warned against a repeat of an incident earlier this year when hundreds of skeletons were found in a remote mine shaft in Mount Darwin, 100 miles from Harare. Mugabe's Zanu-PF party claimed the dead were victims of white colonial-era soldiers and were accused of using state media to turn their fate into election propaganda.

Cholera runs rampant while Mugabe lives in obscene luxury
"It is important that these discoveries are not politicised," added Coltart, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change. 

"These are the remains of loved ones of people who still live in the areas the remains are found in. It is important that we do not repeat the shameful actions which occurred when remains were found in Mount Darwin.

    "It is important that professional archaeologists and anthropologists are engaged in the process of the recovery and reburial of the remains. It is also important that the local community be involved to ensure that local customs, traditions and rites are complied with."

    The sentiment was echoed by Mzila Ndlovu, the local MDC MP, who told New Zimbabwe.com: "The local community must say where and how they want the reburials to occur. But first I would wish that the cabinet can reach an agreement on a national programme that can be put in place to deal with the specific crimes of the Fifth Brigade."

    But Ndlovu warned that it may be impossible to get Zanu-PF to permit a programme of mass exhumations and reburials. "We need to reach agreement to move forward. I want to say the attitude of Zanu-PF people is shocking. The attitudes are hostile, which shows a lack of willingness to deal with Gukurahundi."


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The 5th Estate is making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.



No Escape for Pakistan's Hazaras


Slaughter bears handprint of CIA

Asia Times
By Abubakar Siddique and Khudainoor Nasar
10/06/2011

QUETTA, Pakistan -

A deadly attack in southwest Pakistan has added to the heavy toll suffered by a small Shi'ite minority amid a broad sectarian conflict.
    
    The October 4 attack, carried out against a bus carrying mostly Hazaras on the outskirts of Quetta, claimed the lives of 12 people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but similar attacks against the community have previously been claimed by Sunnis affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Bloody attack on Hazaras
Thousands have died in the ongoing conflict between rival hardline Shi'ite and Sunni sects in Pakistan, but the Hazaras have particularly suffered.

The minority has been left reeling from a sharp increase in attacks in recent years, prompting some members to call on the government to provide more land to accommodate fresh graves. Obtaining justice in the Sunni-majority state has proved elusive for some Hazaras like Rukhsana Ahmed Ali, a prominent political activist and social worker whose husband, Ahmed Ali Najafi, was killed at his workplace two years ago.

      She says two eyewitnesses, young students of a religious seminary, said they heard the killers order her husband out of his car and asking them how he had wronged them.

     "The killers then told him, 'You have not done anything wrong, but we have been told that killing one Shi'ite will open five doors of heaven for us,'" Ahmed Ali says. "He was then forced out of his car and killed by a whole burst of Kalashnikov fire."

'Are we humans or insects?'

     Najafi's September 2009 killing marked the beginning of bloodshed against Hazaras centered in Balochistan province that has continued to this day. Hazara leaders claim that nearly 600 members of their community have been killed since 1999.

    The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned extremist Sunni organization now seen as allied with al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks.

    Middle-aged coal mine owner Sayed Nasir Ali Shah represents Quetta's Hazaras in the federal parliament. He was elected on the ticket of the governing Pakistan People's Party in 2008, but has since turned into one of its most outspoken critics. These days, his only mission is to try to save Hazara lives by calling for government protection.

     Shah was undeterred even when he was targeted in a suicide attack last year, which left one of his young sons paralyzed. He says that protests and petitions with senior leaders have so far fallen on deaf ears.

     "The government is only watching, and I am now tired after constantly shouting to grab their attention," Shah says. "I have been pleading for them to [do something to protect us] for God's sake. Are we humans or insects? We have no confrontation with our [neighboring] Balochi and Pashtun communities. We are targeted because our tormentors believe that we are infidels."

Losing battle

     A century ago, Shah's Hazara ancestors fled the poverty and oppression of their Afghan homeland to the safety offered by Quetta, a British garrison town. Compared to their Afghan cousins, the Hazaras in Quetta prospered in British India and later on in Pakistan. But the tiny minority turned into a target for radical Sunnis.

Hazaras officials targeted
Quetta once led the rest of Pakistan as an example of interfaith harmony. But Sunni extremism gradually gained traction in Balochistan's secular political culture and changed the landscape of its capital. This transformation was aided by Pakistan's alliance with radical Islamists who have fought its proxy wars in neighboring Afghanistan since the 1980s.

     Abdul Khaliq Hazara, chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party, says the government had abdicated its responsibility of protecting his community. The small political party he leads hopes to provide protection to Quetta's 400,000 Hazaras by relentlessly advocating their rights.

     He now sees no light at the end of the tunnel, and laments that many youths in the community are opting to seek asylum abroad.

    "Nobody is listening to us - the parliament, Islamabad, the government in Balochistan, and our powerful [security] institutions," Khaliz Hazara says. "We feel that it's the government's policy to promote sectarian terrorism here. So that people keep on fighting each other because of sectarian tensions."

     Balochistan, Pakistan's largest and least-populated province, is the scene of complex regional rivalries and home to many insurgent movements. The province has been destabilized by a separatist ethnic Balochi insurgency since 2004 that Islamabad is trying to crush militarily.

     Insurgents' foothold?

     Afghan and Western officials, however, are more concerned about the presence of Afghan insurgents in Balochistan. They blame Pakistan for sheltering the leadership of the Afghan Taliban movement in Quetta.

    Police officials claim that the security environment in Balochistan is stretching their small force. Hamid Shakeel, a senior police officer in Quetta, says they always urge Hazaras traveling from Quetta to request police protection before embarking outside the provincial capital, often en route to Iran.

    But there is only so much they can do, Shakeel says. "We only have 1,100 police officers for Quetta and their responsibility is not only to prevent target assassinations but they have to provide protection to senior officials," he says.

     The situation prompted the Hazaras of Quetta to call for international protests this month. The Hazara Democratic Party is counting on Hazara diaspora communities to demonstrate in major cities across Europe, Australia and North America throughout October. A protest in Vienna on October 1 attracted hundreds of supporters, and the October 4 bloodshed prompted hundreds more to condemn the killings during a rally in London.

     Back in Quetta, fear and uncertainty remain high. Mohammed Ismail, a Harzara trader, says that living a normal life in his once peaceful hometown is now impossible.

     "When we leave our houses [in the morning] we are not sure about returning in the evening," Ismail says. "When our children go out into the bazaar, we are worried about something happening to them. These are the kind of problems we live with."


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The 5th Estate is making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.  We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.







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