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Sunday, 29 March 2009

Altaf Hussain

Bush's 'war on terror' is now Obama's

Sunday, March 29, 2009
Dr Farrukh Saleem

Bush's 'war on terror' is now Obama's 'overseas contingency operation', or OCO. Bush's 'war on terror' wasn't going well neither is Obama's OCO. Bush had asked Lieutenant-General Douglas Lute, his 'war czar' for the war in Afghanistan-Pakistan, to recommend a new strategy. The Lute strategy has been sitting on shelves collecting dust. General David Petraeus, the 10th commander of the US Central Command, was then asked to come up with his own strategy. According to the New York Times recommendations given to the White House by General David Petraeus and Lieutenant-General Douglas Lute "call for expanding US operations outside Pakistan's tribal districts."

The Petraeus strategy in Iraq had called for a troop surge and that troop surge did work. The Petraeus strategy for Afghanistan-Pakistan, or Af-Pak, isn't much different; a troop surge followed by negotiating with the Taliban from a position of strength, elimination of Al Qaeda and then an exit strategy.

On January 20, Barack Hussein Obama II took over the White House as the 44th president of the United States of America. On January 22, the new president brought in a new United States special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, ambassador Richard Holbrooke. The new special envoy was asked to design a new Af-Pak strategy. Apparently, that wasn't much to talk about either.

In February, the new president brought in Bruce Riedel -- a 29-year CIA veteran, author of 'Al Qaeda strikes back' and a counterterrorism expert -- to chair another committee and overhaul America's Af-Pak strategy. The Riedel review has now recommended: 

• Successfully shutting down the Pakistani safe haven for extremists 

• In 2009-2010 the Taliban's momentum must be reversed in Afghanistan 

• The international community must work with Pakistan to disrupt the threats to security along Pakistan's western border 

• This new strategy of focusing on our core goal -- to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually destroy extremists and their safe havens within both nations

OCO seems to have two immediate targets: Af-Pak and Iran. And, the route to these two targets passes through Russia (plus countries under Russian influence). The first prong is to establish alternative supply routes -- beyond Chamman and Khyber Pass -- in order to reduce Pakistan's leverage. And, the second prong is to reconcile with Russia, engage Iran and, at the same time, use Russia to force Iran rollback its nuclear ambitions.

The US-Russia dialogue now revolves around five major issues: one, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I (set to expire on December 5, 2009). Two, the issue of NATO expansion. Three, Ballistic Missile Defence (10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic). Four, Iran's rollback. Five, the Manas Air Base in Bishkek (the airbase supports US military operations in Afghanistan). 

Intriguingly, the Obama administration is showing flexibility on all of these five issues --the kind of flexibility that hasn't been seen before. Obama is willing to abandon Ukraine and Georgia (keep them out of NATO) and avoid deploying interceptor missiles in Poland in return for alternative supply routes through Russia and Russian-influenced territory plus a verifiable rollback in Iran. In essence, Obama's new focus is Af-Pak (plus Iran). Within Af-Pak, the real theatre of war now seems to be moving southwards more towards the Spin Buldak-Kandahar-Quetta corridor. 

OCO itself stands on two legs; a military column and an economic limb (the classic 'carrot-and-stick' policy). Petraeus has been given his additional combat brigades and Pakistan is being charmed with an offer of $1.5 billion a year in non-military aid (subject to Congressional approval). 

America is in Af-Pak not to win a war but to neutralise all threats to the mainland US that may in the future originate from within Af-Pak. The Taliban are no direct threat to the mainland, Al Qaeda is. America is here to defeat Al Qaeda not the Taliban.

The writer is the executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS). Email: farrukh15@hotmail.com

Is that true?

Sunday, March 29, 2009
Aakar Patel

The BJP says Manmohan Singh is weak and no match for their strongman Advani.

Is that true? Let us examine their qualifications.

Born in 1932, Manmohan Singh graduated in economics from Punjab University, read for his tripos (first class honours) from St John's College, Cambridge University, where he won the Wright's Prize in 1955 and the Adam Smith prize in 1956. He got his DPhil from Nuffield College, Oxford University, in 1962.

His thesis was on "India's Export Trends and Prospects for Self- Sustained Growth". By age 30, he understood that Nehru's inward- looking economic policy was misplaced.

He has worked at the United Nations, served as governor of the Reserve Bank, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission and chairman of the University Grants Commission. He has taught at Punjab University and Delhi School of Economics.

In government, he reversed what we call Nehruvian socialism during his five years as finance minister between 1991 and 1996. His policy crafting gave India economic success, through a doctrine now called Manmohanomics, which he continued in his five years as prime minister from 2004 to 2009.

In 1991, the year Manmohan became finance minister, India's per capita GDP was $328, and Pakistan's was $458. In 2008, Pakistan's was $623 and India's $900. From 28 per cent behind Pakistan, India went ahead 30 per cent because of him. No Indian leader has ever been as qualified, or as effective, as Manmohan Singh.

Born in 1927, L K Advani attended D G National College, Hyderabad, Sindh, but could not get a degree. His website says he got an LLB from Bombay University's Government Law College, but does not say when, and his autobiography does not mention this degree at all.

He worked for the RSS publication Organiser till 1967, where he wrote film reviews. After a brief term in the Delhi municipal council, because of his RSS connection, Advani was nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Jailed along with other opposition leaders during Indira Gandhi's emergency of 1975-77, Advani came to power as the combined opposition defeated the Congress for the first time since independence. 

Because of his journalism experience, Advani became minister for information and broadcasting in 1977. At the age of 45, this was his first job in an executive position. It was a brief experience; the government collapsed in two years.

In the 80s, Advani became a star when he campaigned on the Babri Masjid issue across India. It was demolished on December 6, 1992. He says he did not anticipate this, showing his lack of understanding of the Indian mind, and of consequences. Over 2,000 Indians were killed.

As home minister in Vajpayee's government (1999-2004), Advani got his second executive job at age 72. Did he build his tough-man image then?


He surrendered to Jaish-e-Mohammad at Kandahar after the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane in December 1999, and released Masood Azhar and Omar Saeed Shaikh, who later beheaded Wall Street Journal's Daniel Pearl.

In March 2002, as Union home minister he could not prevent the massacres in Gujarat, in which 1,000 were killed.

If he has no record to speak of, why do his supporters call him strong?

Sadly, this image comes from his willingness to do violence to India's Muslims. His failures are his successes to his admirers.

Advani actually has very little experience in executive or policy positions. And he does not show evidence of being able to overcome this lack of experience through his intellect, or his effort.

His autobiography ("My Country, My Life") is maudlin, and peppered with mistakes. With typical hyperbole, he calls the emergency the "darkest period in Indian history" but then he reports its years wrong (pages 259, 266, 270). He spent years in villages in RSS service, but mistakes (on page 69) Guinea worm for tapeworm.

Advani's problem is that his intellectual bandwidth is limited by his ordinary education. He is not at the same level as Oxbridge's Manmohan, and Harvard's Obama.

His reading is basic and he likes it pre-digested through writers like William Shirer and Thomas Friedman.

In a lifetime in opposition, Advani has stirred the pot with drawing-room solutions to emotional problems. The sort of problems that trouble our aching nationalists. India is weak -- we must build an atom bomb! Pakistan is doing terrorism -- we must hit back! Hindu sentiment is hurt -- we must replace the Babri masjid!

Such a Manichean and innocent view of the world is touching, because it comes out of trauma (Advani was kicked out of Karachi at partition).

One of the most moving moments of his life, according to Advani, was when on a tour to the Himalayas, he asked what a passing stream was, and was told it was the Indus, Sindhu nadi, from which he gets his Sindhi identity and we get our nation's name.

He is unable to separate himself from this sentimentalism.

Though he keeps attacking India's minority-ism, his own mentality is still that of a besieged minority from Sindh.

Manmohan was also kicked out (he is from village Gah in Chakwal), but has lifted himself above our sub-continental pettiness.

Manmohan has the exposure, and the intellect, to detach himself from the insanity below. Advani cannot do this, because he has been wading in it and beating his breast, even after Indians built one of the most successful democracies in the world.

Crucially, Manmohan has deep access into pan-Indian culture because of his ability to read, in addition to Hindi and Gurmukhi, Urdu.

He educated Indians on Iqbal through his budget speeches as finance minister. I was familiar with Tarana-e-Hindi (which Indians know as Saare jahan say achcha), but I had not registered its most stirring couplet till I heard Manmohan recite it in his Punjabi lilt: Yunan-o-Misr-o-Roma, sub mitt gaye jahan say, ab tak magar hai baqi naam-o-nishaan hamara.

Advani does not have this access into his own culture because, as he wrote to his regret, he did not learn to read Sanskrit. His grandmother could read Gurmukhi, but he could not.

While he speaks Sindhi well (Benazir opened a conversation with him in Sindhi but then could not continue it), he cannot read it in Nastaliq because he went to an English-medium school, St Patrick's in Karachi.

He mistakes Persian script for Arabic (page 34).

He writes that till the age of 20 he did not even speak Hindi properly. Not particularly good qualifications for a man whose policy thrusts -- Ram temple, Uniform Civil Code, Article 370 -- are all cultural.

Politically, both Manmohan and Advani are weak, and dependent.

Manmohan is a member of Rajya Sabha (not directly elected), and serves at the pleasure of Sonia Gandhi.

Advani contests for the Lok Sabha, but from Gujarat, where he is at Modi's mercy (Advani cannot speak Gujarati). And he has spent a lifetime bending his knee to the RSS, which echoes his seething resentment of Muslims.

But while he's politically weak, Manmohan is undisputed master of policy. And because of his integrity, Sonia Gandhi has given him a freehand where it matters.

Sonia did not push for the Indo-American strategic alliance; that is all Manmohan.

Manmohan brings an economist's cold view to policy: he has the mind of the bania, rather than the warrior, whom we more readily identify with Advani. Advani loves Rajasthan, India's only martial state, and has "developed a fascination for this land of heroes and martyrs."

India does not need its leaders to be martial heroes and martyrs. We need education and healthcare and a strong economy.

India, and also Pakistan, needs a bania's self-preserving mentality because under the warrior's code, we commit suicide quite easily, like we did in 1962's avoidable war with China.

Advani doesn't want the Indo-US nuclear deal because it is surrender. 

Under it, some current and all future nuclear installations will be now classified as civilian and subject to international regulation, while others will be outside scrutiny, free to make weapons. What is wrong with this deal? India has been starved of nuclear technology for four decades, which it will now get freely. But Advani says it makes us 'strategically subservient' because the US does not treat us as 'equals'.

He sees foreign policy in terms of honour and dishonour.

Advani is clueless on economics because of his lack of education, and uninterested in it because the subject lacks heroic emotion.

If he does take power, his urge for martyrdom will be disciplined by India's bureaucracy, as Vajpayee's was before him. He will be made more realist by the limits of power, which will deflate his bombast, as he finally gets a proper education, at age 82.

The writer is a former newspaper editor who lives in Bombay. Email: aakar.patel@gmail.com

suicide bomber targeted a crowded mosque in Pakistan’s north-west frontier province

be happy forever.

Only 93 people killed in Lal Masjid operation: Musharraf

Monday March 30, 2009 (0706 PST)

RAWALPINDI: Former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf left for China here on Friday.

Talking to journalists before his departure at the airport, Musharraf said he was visiting China on the invitation of the Chinese government. He said during his 10-day visit he will deliver lectures in different universities of China. After completion of his visit to China, he will fly to Dubai.

In response to questions raised by journalists, Musharraf rejected the news about the killing of hundreds of people in the Lal Masjid operation and termed such news baseless. He said only 93 people were killed in the operation.

Musharraf said the Lal Masjid operation was carried out by the state. If any case was registered against him, then he would decide what to do, he added.

He also rejected the allegations on the ISI and termed it fabricated and baseless.

About drone attacks, General (r) Pervez Musharraf said on Sunday no outside party had any right to cross the border into Pakistan, adding serious notice must be taken of any such actions.

Asked whether he would appear before court if he were tried under Article 6 of the constitution, he said: “We will cross that bridge when we come to it.” However, he refused to comment on the reinstatement of the sacked judges, saying it was the government’s decision.


Obama’s Afghan quagmire

Ghulam Asghar Khan
As President Obama seeks a way to end more than seven years of fighting, US wizard Richard Holbrooke outlined to NATO the new strategy to beat insurgents in Afghanistan. On Monday, he met NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and 26 ambassadors in Brussels, as the alliance battles a massive challenge posed by the Taliban and their backers. He also met some senior EU officials, as Washington urges greater efforts from its partners to bring peace to the turbulent land. The talks were the last before a "big tent" international meeting on Afghanistan in Holland on March31, when Washington's strategy for tackling a problem fuelling international extremism would be unveiled. The Taliban were ousted in 2001, yet NATO has still been struggling to spread Kabul's hold across a country that has been a sanctuary for al-Qaeda fighters and Taliban that control three-fourth of the country. The situation is worst today, when it shouldn't be, because the US and its allies prematurely declared that they were successfully accomplishing their mission in Afghanistan and refocused their attention on Iraq. This was a historical blunder, as twice in the last 20 years, US has turned away from Afghanistan in 1989 (after the fall of the USSR) and again in March 2003, when they invaded Iraq on flimsy grounds. Like the mission in Afghanistan, the Iraq mission still remained in doldrums after six years; they suddenly realised that it was time to augment their forces in Afghanistan where situation had become critical. There already are more than 60,000 US-led troops in Afghanistan and more are on the way. Washington plans to send another big posse of 17,000 to rescue the beleaguered alien and indigenous Afghan troops. This is a tremendous historical dilemma that the power-drunk Bush's administration altogether ignored. Afghanistan, in it's over 2,000 years of history has never been ruled by alien rulers. Whosoever came to conquer Afghanistan was badly mauled and battered by the valiant tribes inhabiting the most difficult battle-ground and had to quit in disgrace. And this would be the ultimate fate of the US-led forces in this unforgiving land. Ahead of March 31, conference on Afghanistan, Iran's foreign minister Mottaki, who was on a visit to Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan for talks with Afghan and Tajik counterparts, said that the West must respect the will and the traditions of the people of Afghanistan. Iran has specifically been invited by Washington to attend the Hague parleys; but has not so far confirmed or refused its participation. After failing to make any headway during the last seven years, the US and its allies have finally understood that the military option has brought about no positive results in Afghanistan. While the Obama administration trumpets that the problems of the region cannot be solved by military means, the basic approach has been reliance on heightened military actions. A week back, 14 members of the Congress (eight Democrats, six Republicans) sent a letter to Obama urging him to 'reconsider' his order deploying 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. The letter lays down a clear line of opposition to the rationales for stepping up the warfare. "If the intent is to leave behind a stable Afghanistan capable of governing itself, this military escalation may well be counterproductive," says the letter. And it further warns, "Any perceived military success in Afghanistan might create pressure to increase military activity in Pakistan. This could very well lead to dangerous destabilisation in the region and would increase hostility towards the United States." The overall situation remains an unsatisfactory way to conduct a war. Somehow, Barack Obama for some misconceived reasons has decided that he too will be a war president like his predecessor GW Bush and his victory would mean a triumph in Afghanistan; although this was not part of the initial evaluation, Pakistan as well, or so it seems now. What the NATO countries don't need is an expanded NATO, or American war in central and South Asia. If, or when Gen. Petraeus comes around to NATO HQ in Kabul and says, "Look guys, the time has come for the bunch of you to shape up or ship out." They might as well reply, "Sir, our bags are packed. It's been grand working with you, but take our parting advice. There's no future for any European soldier in this country." The disturbing question is; can Obama win in Afghanistan? By the year 2010, the Afghan conflict would become the longest war in American history. Is it a quagmire that Obama should extricate himself from while there is still time? The answer to last question is yes. Leave aside domestic politics as the strategic stakes are very high if the war extends to Pakistan and other central Asian countries. The two major stakeholders in the region are China and Russia, who would certainly react to thwart US hegemonic strategy in the region that could lead to 3rd world war and a certain apocalypse. There are some very serious risks involved, should Obama approve the full military build up his commanders are asking for. What the Afghans resent the most is the presence of aliens who want to colonise their country and make their lives miserable. Polls and private conversations suggest that they are agnostic about foreigners who want to stay just long enough to help them establish a viable state, viable military and police institutions and a stronger economy, and then leave. Anti-Americanism is indeed worsening in Afghanistan today, and that is the real problem. In fact Afghanistan is a country with volatile collection of allegiance shifting tribes, ethnic groups and warlords. Obama's new strategy could be called the Afghanisation of the Afghan War, which sounds too much like the colossal failure, crafted by Nixon and Kissinger, called the Vietnamisation of the Vietnam War. It amounts to dumping entire screwed up mess on the home country military; instead of US troops "doing the killing and the dying," it would have the home troops to do the killing and dying. Obama has announced an increase of 4,000 US trainers for Afghanistan to double the size of Afghan Army and Police. Some such trainers are already working in FATA area of Pakistan. Yet, like Vietnam it could be too late in Afghanistan. Will the US training and mentoring of Afghan troops and police hold the fort after it vacates its occupation, or would collapse like a stack of cards as soon as the US troops blow out of the country. The situation wouldn't be too much different on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line. With all the troops US can gather from around the world, it would be a loser; because Afghan history is against it. The Afghans can fight long-drawn wars stretched over much longer periods. The British Empire and the USSR had a bitter taste of it in the 19th and 20th centuries. These were the wars that the British and the Soviets lost, and so would be the Americans. gasghar@yahoo.com

Parveez Muhsarraf funny video