Saturday, November 1, 2014

Porous Pakistani Border Could Hinder U.S.

By JANE PERLEZ and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH —

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – President Obama is pouring more than 20,000 new troops into Afghanistan this year for a fighting season that the United States military has called a make-or-break test of the allied campaign in Afghanistan.

But if Taliban strategists have their way, those forces will face a stiff challenge, not least because of one distinct Taliban advantage: the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan barely exists for the Taliban, who are counting on the fact that American forces cannot reach them in their sanctuaries in Pakistan.

One Pakistani logistics tactician for the Taliban, a 28-year-old from the country’s tribal areas, in interviews with The New York Times, described a Taliban strategy that relied on free movement over the border and in and around Pakistan, ready recruitment of Pakistani men and sustained cooperation of sympathetic Afghan villagers.

His account provided a keyhole view of the opponent the Americans and their NATO allies are up against, as well as the workings and ambitions of the Taliban as they prepared to meet the influx of American troops.

It also illustrated how the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of many brands of jihadist fighters backed by Al Qaeda, are spearheading wars on both sides of the border in what for them is a seamless conflict.

The tactician wears a thick but carefully shaped black beard and a well-trimmed shock of black hair, a look cultivated to allow him to move easily all over Pakistan. He spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by his fellow Taliban members.

But on an array of issues, discussed over six months of interviews with The Times, he showed himself to be knowledgeable of Taliban activities, and the information he provided matched up consistently with that of other sources.

He was well informed – and unconcerned, he said – of the plans of the head of the United States Central Command, Gen. David H. Petraeus, to replicate in Afghanistan some of the techniques he had used in Iraq to stop the Sunni tribes from fighting the Americans.

“I know of the Petraeus experiment there,” he said. “But we know our Afghans. They will take the money from Petraeus, but they will not be on his side. There are so many people working with the Afghans and the Americans who are on their payroll, but they inform us, sell us weapons.”

He acknowledged that the Americans would have far superior forces and power this year, but was confident that the Taliban could turn this advantage on its head. “The Americans cannot take control of the villages,” he said. “In order to expel us they will have to resort to aerial bombing, and then they will have more civilian casualties.”

The one thing that impressed him were the missile strikes by drones – virtually the only American military presence felt inside Pakistan. “The drones are very effective,” he said, acknowledging that they had thinned the top leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the area. He said 29 of his friends had been killed in the strikes.

The drone attacks simply prompted Taliban fighters to spend more time in Afghanistan, or to move deeper into Pakistan, straddling both theaters of a widening conflict. The recruits were prepared to fight where they were needed, in either country, he said.

In the fighting now under way in Buner and Dir Districts, in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban are taking on the Pakistani Army in a battle that is the most obvious front of a long-haul strategy to destabilize and take over a nuclear-armed Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban are directly singling out the United States and NATO forces by sending guerrillas to assist their Afghan Taliban allies in ousting the foreigners from Afghanistan.

While to the Taliban those conflicts are one fluid and sprawling war, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan has long presented a firm barrier for the United States.

Although Pakistan is an official ally of the United States, the Pakistanis will not allow American troops to cross the border from Afghanistan. They will also not allow the troops to be present as a fighting force alongside the Pakistani military in the tribal areas that Al Qaeda and the Taliban use as a base.

The United States has helped Pakistan and Afghanistan recently open a series of joint posts to share intelligence and improve border monitoring. But those efforts are slight when compared with the demands of a 1,600-mile frontier of unforgiving terrain.

Despite years of demands by American and NATO commanders for Pakistan to control Taliban infiltration, the Taliban tactician said getting his fighters over the border was not a problem. The Pakistani paramilitary soldiers from the Frontier Corps who guard the border were too busy looking after their own survival, he said.

He has already begun moving 80 Taliban fighters in four groups stealthily into Afghanistan in the past month to meet the new American forces, he said.

The tactician says he embeds his men in what he described as friendly Afghan villages, where they will spend the next four to six months with the residents, who provide the weapons and succor for the missions against American and NATO soldiers.

In March, he made a reconnaissance trip by motorcycle to Paktika Province in Afghanistan from Wana, the main city in South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal areas, to make sure the route was safe for his men. It was.

The main task for his first two groups of fighters will be to ambush convoys of NATO goods and soldiers on the Kandahar-Kabul highway, a major supply line for the allied war effort. “We want to inflict maximum trouble, to lower their morale, to destabilize,” he said.

His guerrillas, in their late teens to mid-20s, are handpicked for their endurance and commitment, he said. Some, like him, were trained by the Pakistani government as proxy fighters against India in Kashmir and have now joined the Qaeda and Taliban cause.

In a new twist, cameramen instructed to capture video of faltering American soldiers for propaganda DVDs are increasingly accompanying the guerrillas.

The tactician, a heavily built man who says he has put on weight in the past two years and is now too heavy and old to fight, said he was loyal to a commander named Mullah Mansoor.

In turn, Mr. Mansoor serves under the aegis of Siraj Haqqani, the son of a veteran Afghan mujahedeen leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani.

The tactician worked mostly from Wana, where he owns a small business and where, he acknowledged, the American drone strikes had disrupted life. The threat of the drones had ended the custom of gathering in groups of 10 to 20 men to discuss the issues of the day. “The gossip has finished,” he said.

The relationship between the Pakistani Taliban and Qaeda operatives, most of whom are Arabs, is respectful but distant, according to his descriptions.

The Arabs often go to the bazaar in Wana. But they bristle when asked questions, he said. “They never tell us their activities,” he said.

But the Taliban are willing providers for Al Qaeda. “When they need a suicide bomber, like blowing up a government building, we provide it,” he said.

There was respect for the scale of Al Qaeda’s ambitions. “They have a global agenda, they have a big design,” he said.

The Taliban goal was more narrow. “Capturing Afghanistan is not an Al Qaeda mission,” he said. “It’s a Taliban mission. We will be content in capturing Afghanistan and throwing the Americans out.”

The Pakistani Taliban will fight as long as it takes to defeat the Americans, he said. At the end of this fighting season, he said, “We will have a body count, and we will see who has broken whose back.”

Source: The New York Times

President Karzai arrive in Washington, D.C.

President Hamid Karzai has arrived in Washington, D.C. for an official four-day visit to the United States of America. President Karzai is leading a delegation of senior Afghan officials including Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta; Defense Minister Rahim Wardak; Interior Minister Hanif Atmar; National Security Adviser Dr. Zalmay Rassoul; Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal; Commerce Minister Wahidullah Shahrani; Agriculture Minister Mohammad Asif Rahimi and Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Amerullah Saleh.

During the visit, President Karzai is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama and other senior US officials to discuss strengthening Afghanistan-US relations; the situation in Afghanistan and the region; as well as the combat against terrorism.

President Karzai will also take part in a Trilateral Meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari and US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for strengthening regional cooperation to address the challenges in Afghanistan and the region.

Moreover, President Karzai is scheduled to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with his Pakistani counterpart on Improving Trade and Accession Facilitation.

As part of the agenda, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Agriculture and Finance, and the Director of National Intelligence will participate in separate working group sessions with their Pakistani counterparts for strengthening cooperation in relevant areas. The working group sessions will be chaired by the respective US counterparts.

Ministerial Meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
to the United Nations
At the Ministerial Meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement
April 29, 2009
Havana, Cuba

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Mr. Chairman,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

My delegation would like to thank the Republic of Cuba for its leadership of Non-Aligned Movement since September 2006, and express our appreciation for their warm hospitality in this colorful city of Havana. We trust that under your leadership, this meeting will prove a success, and we will be well prepared for the upcoming Fifteen Summit in Egypt in July 2009.

Mr. Chairman,
The world has changed significantly since April 1955, when Afghanistan joined 24 of our brother countries in founding this Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Today, the Cold War has ended and there is a new global order: we no longer see through a bipolar prism, we see through a multi-polar one. And inter-state war has become overshadowed by terrorist attacks by state and non-state actors.

However, NAM’s founding principles are as relevant today as they have ever been. In 1983, at our movement’s seventh summit, we described ourselves as “history’s biggest peace movement.” Today the call of peace has great resonance against the violence of terrorism and the conflicts that still plague our world. Other founding principles of NAM – respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations and the recognition of the equality of nations- are important, too, in addressing today’s challenges of our evolving political and economic world order.
Thus our meeting today is important. Today our discussion centers on how NAM’s voice can be most effective in answering the many challenges we face.

Mr. Chairman,
My country offers a unique perspective to this discussion. As a land-locked, least-developed country that is still a victim of terrorism, Afghanistan is deeply concerned with the challenges we face with many of our Southern brothers.
We join with you in remaining committed to a just solution for the suffering of the people of Palestine, the creation of two states and a harmonious Middle East. Afghanistan once again urges the full implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions and the Road Map. We are hopeful for a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear program in our brother country of the Islamic Republic of Iran. My delegation also is encouraged by the increasing stability in Iraq and we congratulate our Iraqi brothers and sisters on coming together to forge a more stable and peaceful situation.

In addition, Afghanistan sees the necessity and potential of North-South collaboration, as well as cooperation between countries in the South, because we have an active and crucial partnership with the international community and with our regional neighbors.
Perhaps most importantly, Afghanistan can offer a unique perspective because our key challenges today are also the two key challenges that all NAM countries face, and which we should work to address.

Mr. Chairman,
The two main crises today are that of terrorism and an economic depression. These crises are related.
Terrorism is Afghanistan’s primary concern and the world’s primary challenge. Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies find their sanctuaries in the area bordering our country. We feel first-hand the costs of terrorism: the death of thousands of our innocent citizens, the burnings and destruction of schools, health clinics, hospitals, and roads.
But terrorism has a global reach. From New York to London, from Mumbai to Madrid, and from Kabul to Karachi, terrorist attacks have cast their shadows on both the North and South.

The second main crisis is that of the global financial collapse which exacerbates the already severe crises of energy, environment and food that particularly threaten the developing countries of the South. Already poor countries threaten to become even more mired in poverty. Afghans have felt this firsthand, as the rising wheat prices created the threat of a deadly food shortage this past winter. Thus, this financial crisis deepens the great gulf that already exists between the wealth of rich countries and the poverty of struggling nations.
My country also offers a clear example of the political implications of this divide. Poverty breeds desperation. Thus, weak states breed terrorists, organized crime and dangerous extremist elements that threaten the safety and wealth of rich countries. Again, both the North and South are affected.

Mr. Chairman,
Afghanistan is on the front lines of these two key challenges, and today I would like to underline the importance of cooperation in our work for physical and economic security.

Afghans have seen how regional and international assistance is imperative to fighting our war on terror and providing stable economic futures for our citizens. Our greatest steps forward: the constitution, the elections, combating narcotics, improvements in the Afghan National Army, infrastructure, education and health, were ones we took together with international and regional partners. International cooperation has enabled Afghanistan to establish representative political institutions, encourage free media, the paving of roads, and the building of thousands of schools, clinics, and hospitals around the country. The upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections will prove an important test of this progress. We look for the support of the international community in our commitment to ensuring credible and transparent elections.
Because we have seen the fruits of cooperation with our own eyes, we stress that the global threats of terrorism and economic insecurity are challenges that can be met effectively only with cooperation: South with South, North with South, North with North.

Mr. Chairman,
Cooperation can best be accomplished through improving the operations of international and regional institutions, supporting international and regional cooperation, and increasing the effectiveness of international and regional efforts in the recipient countries.

First, to improve the operations of existing international and regional operations, Afghanistan is fully committed to NAM’s stated goal of improving the United Nations’ responsiveness and effectiveness. In chairing the intergovernmental negotiations on UN Security Council reform on behalf of the President of the General Assembly, I have the honor to see the dedicated work our countries are making to forward comprehensive, transparent, and balanced reform. I am making every effort to ensure that the reform continues in this spirit, and am hopeful for the prospects of this reform, as well as the processes focused on the revitalization of the GA and on system-wide coherence.
Afghanistan also fully supports the UN Secretary General’s call for a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) review conference in 2010. We commend the work of the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development on the Implementation of the 2002 Monterrey Consensus last December, and look forward to the High-Level Meeting planned for June. This conference reminds us of the need to maintain aid commitments despite global uncertainty. Afghanistan also supports the conference’s agreement to strengthen ECOSOC as a principal body for promotion of international economic cooperation, coordination, policy review and policy dialogue.

Second, Afghanistan is dedicated to finding more opportunities for international and regional cooperation as well as supporting the existing cooperative institutions such as ECO and SAARC. With our immediate neighbors, Afghanistan continues to work bilaterally and trilaterally to promote stability, security and strengthen economic cooperation. We are committed to working through the trilateral mechanisms including Afghanistan-Pakistan-United States, Afghanistan-Pakistan-Turkey and Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran. We are also looking forward to the Presidential-level meeting of the trilateral Afghanistan-Pakistan-United States contact group that is planned for May in Washington. The third regional economic cooperation conference on Afghanistan will be held in Islamabad soon. We hope such forms of cooperation will lead to concrete actions to ending the terrorist sanctuaries and addressing the increasing activities of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups.
Third, Afghanistan encourages the ongoing international efforts to find more areas of cooperation and coordination in the recipient countries themselves. With fewer economic resources, we must be smarter about how we use these resources. Afghanistan is thankful for the Paris conference last June, the recent Hague Conference, and the SCO meeting in Moscow in March-all conferences that have emphasized exactly this need for more consistent and effective delivery of aid.

Mr. Chairman,
The struggle for economic and political security in Afghanistan also shows the potential of a world that has met these challenges. A safe and secure Afghanistan will be able to offer innumerable benefits for the region and the world. Afghanistan can, and should, play a crucial role as a land bridge and economic hub for the region, a role that has historically placed us at the centre of Eurasian trade routes. Let this potential be one example of the light we work towards today.

Mr. Chairman,
Our discussion should recognize that NAM has an important voice in today’s world. Our founding principles of NAM are just as important today; these principles must stand strong against the main challenges of terrorism and economic instability.
But we stand strongest when we stand together. Afghanistan expresses its gratitude to the commitment of all our international partners, including the NAM member countries, to aiding in our efforts and success in building a secure, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. In turn, Afghanistan is fully committed to work together as a part of NAM to forward a more peaceful, secure world.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.