You are herecontent / Afghanistan War Weekly: January 10, 2011
Afghanistan War Weekly: January 10, 2011
Pakistan’s government neared collapse this week, pummeled by the defection of partners from the coalition led by the Pakistan Peoples Party and by the assassination of a leading PPP politician (and governor of Punjab province) by an Islamist fanatic. The defections stemmed in part by the PPP’s attempt to comply with orders from the IMF and from the US re: increasing its government revenue (and thus reducing its need for US aid) predictably resulted in “reforms” hurting the poor, not the tax-avoiding rich. The resolution of the crisis finds the governing coalition under the thumb of a populist economic and anti-corruption program negotiated with the main opposition party, with a 45-day deadline to avoid a vote of “no confidence” and new elections. As for the implications of the assassination, NB the article by Juan Cole below, arguing that extreme Islamism is found represents a relatively small minority of Pakistan’s population.
Two important trends regarding the actual war in Afghanistan became apparent this week. The first is that the United States has de facto conceded that no action will be taken re: higher-level corruption in Pakistan, nor about the latest fraudulent election. These were two of the pillars on which nation building was to be carried out. The only “pillar” still standing is the training of Afghanistan’s army and police, to which $10 billion has been allotted this year; though as the “60 Minutes” video linked below indicates, progress remains doubtful.
The second important trend is the clarification of how the Pentagon will finesse President Obama’s reiteration that there will be a “drawdown” of US troops in July 2011. As noted in two stories linked below, this will be accomplished by a mini-surge of 3,000 combat troops to Kandahar beginning immediately, and by sending home unneeded support troops. It is very likely, therefore, that after July’s “drawdown” the United States will have more combat troops in Afghanistan than it has now.
An important article linked below notes that the death rate for US soldiers in Afghanistan has been dramatically lowered by new techniques to save people who are horribly wounded. If the dead-to-wounded ratio were the same as it was earlier in the war, US deaths in combat would be much higher. In this respect, total combat casualties (dead and wounded) are a more accurate measure of the carnage of this war than combat deaths alone.
In addition to the “featured essays” just below, I especially encourage a look at an article on the increasing numbers of “Special Ops” in Afghanistan (now at 30 a day); an article alleging that the Obama administration has decided against putting more troops on the ground inside Pakistan; an estimate that the number of Taliban troops has not been reduced by last fall’s “surge”; an interesting article about China’s intensified diplomacy in Central Asia; and a good set of links to the latest info about the WikiLeaks drama.
Once again, if you find this newsletter useful, I would appreciate your help in expanding circulation. I would also appreciate suggestions about good articles to link here, and also comments (pro & con) that would help to make this newsweekly better. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. This “issue” and some previous editions of the Afghanistan War Weekly are posted on the websites of United for Peace and Justice (http://www.unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=4111) and War is a Crime (www.afterdowningstreet.org/aww).
----Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
How Afghanistan Became a War for NATO
By Gareth Porter, Antiwar.com [January 3, 2011]
---- The official line of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO command in Afghanistan, is that the war against Afghan insurgents is vital to the security of all the countries providing troops there. In fact, however, NATO was given a central role in Afghanistan because of the influence of U.S. officials concerned with the alliance. The alliance would never have been given such a prominent role in Afghanistan but for the fact that the George W. Bush administration wanted no significant U.S. military role there that could interfere with their plans to take control of Iraq. That reality gave U.S. officials working on NATO an opening. But conflicts immediately arose between the U.S. and NATO member countries over the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Britain, Germany, Canada, and the Netherlands had all sold the NATO mission to their publics as “peacekeeping” or “reconstruction” as distinct from counterinsurgency war. http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2011/01/03/how-afghanistan-became-a-w...
The Way Out of Afghanistan
By Ahmed Rashid, New York Review of Books [January 13, 2011]
---- The strategic policy review released by President Obama on December 16 is extremely cautious, noting that recent gains in the south remain “reversible.” The report says the strategy “is setting the conditions” to withdraw a small number of US troops in July 2011, but it does not specify how many of the 100,000 American forces might leave. None of the attempts at rebuilding the Afghan state over the past nine years have really worked. What assurance is there that they will work by 2014? The dates and debates in the White House tell only half the story. Afghanistan is going through a series of domestic crises, which will determine whether there will be a functioning state by 2014 or not. The region is already sharply divided. On one side stands Pakistan, virtually alone with some support from China, but none from the Arab-Muslim world that used to support the Taliban. Opposing Pakistan are Iran, Russia, India, and the Central Asian states, which are extremely suspicious of Pakistan and the Taliban but lack a strategy to deal with them. They want the US to stay longer in Afghanistan, but are also suspicious of an indefinite US presence. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jan/13/way-out-afghanistan/
THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
U.S. Seeks to Keep Afghan Troop Strength
By Julian E. Barnes, et al.,Wall Street Journal [January 8, 2011]
---- U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan are seeking ways to maintain the level of combat troops there, even as they make plans to cut the overall number of American personnel to meet the White House's mandate to start shipping out forces by summer. Under one early proposal, commanders in Afghanistan would cut from 5,000 to 10,000 staff positions, maintenance personnel and intelligence analysts. But the number of Army and Marine infantry would be untouched, as would brigade and battalion headquarters. Gen. Petraeus and administration officials in Washington appeared to back the general approach of culling support positions that may be redundant or expendable, while preserving, or even increasing, the proportion of front-line infantry troops in the field. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870473950457606819381280164...
See also: Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Boosts Afghan Surge,” Wall Street Journal [January 4, 2011] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870367590457606402108661314...
Newsweek: Obama=Bush on War, and That's a Good Thing
By Peter Hart, FAIR [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting] [January 3, 2011]
---- Stephen L. Carter has a piece over at Newsweek that points out that Barack Obama hardly differs from George W. Bush when it comes to war; as the subhead explains: "How does Barack Obama differ as a commander in chief from his swaggering predecessor? A lot less than you might think." Now that's something you don't hear very often in the corporate media. But Carter means this more as a compliment than a criticism, http://www.fair.org/blog/2011/01/03/newsweek-obamabush-on-war-and-thats-...
An unlikely exit from Afghanistan
By H.D.S. Greenway, The Boston Globe [January 4, 2011]
---- Will the unpopularity of the government and foreign troops convince enough Afghans to support the Taliban to make the country ungovernable, as the mujahideen did to the Soviets? Or will enough Afghans rally to the government to create some modicum of stability before America starts to leave in earnest? The latter is unlikely before the target date of 2014. http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2011/0...
USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE WAR
---- 711 Coalition soldiers were killed in 2010, including 499 US soldiers. Fighting has begun to taper off due to the onset of winter; 53 US soldiers were killed in November, 30 were killed in December, and 8 have been killed so far in January. In total, 2,292 Coalition soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war, including 1,453 soldiers from the United States. The number of US soldiers wounded in November 2010 was 501, and 323 were wounded in December. This brings the total US wounded during 2010 to 5,178, and the number wounded since the war began to 9,771. To learn more go to www.icasualties.org and to http://tomhayden.com/downloads/Wounded.pdf. On US wounded soldiers, please read the C.J.Chivers New York Times article of January 7, 2011 (below).
---- “Afghan civilian toll up 20 percent-U.N. report,” by Jonathon Burch, Reuters [December 21, 2010] states that “Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 20 percent in the first 10 months of this year compared with 2009, the United Nations said, with more than three-quarters killed or wounded as a result of insurgent attacks. In a quarterly report on Afghanistan this month, the United Nations said there were 6,215 civilian casualties from conflict-related incidents, including 2,412 deaths and 3,803 injuries, between January and the end of October this year.” http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-53709120101221?rpc=401&feedType=... See also Susan G. Chesser, “Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians,” Congressional Research Service [August 11, 2010] http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41084.pdf
The Cost of the War
---- According to the website www.costofwar.com, expenditures on the Afghanistan war have reached $367 billion and the total for both the Afghanistan and the Iraq wars is $1.135 trillion. For a useful resource on the costs of war, go to “Bring Our War $$ Home” at www.bringourwardollarshome.org/index.html
Public opinion about the war in Afghanistan
---- “63 Percent of Americans Oppose War In Afghanistan.” Opposition to the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time high, with 63 percent of the public now opposed to U.S. involvement there, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey. Just 35 percent of survey respondents say they still support U.S. involvement. The increase in opposition to U.S. involvement comes as pessimism about how the war is going is rising. According to a poll done Dec. 17-19, 56 percent of the public believes that "things are going badly for the U.S. in Afghanistan." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/30/63-percent-of-american-public-o...
---- “ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Record Six in 10 Say it's 'Not Worth Fighting' “ - A record 60 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, a grim assessment -- and a politically hazardous one -- in advance of the Obama administration's one-year review of its revised strategy. Public dissatisfaction with the war, now the nation's longest, has spiked by 7 points just since July. Given its costs vs. its benefits, only 34 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll [December 16, 2010] say the war's been worth fighting, down by 9 points to a new low, by a sizable margin. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/abc-news-washington-post-poll-exclusive-a...
---- “[Dutch] Poll shows dissent on Afghanistan mission.” -- The new training mission to Afghanistan advocated by the government has the support of just 34% of the Dutch population. 58% are opposed. The poll shows the majority of Christian Democrat voters are for the mission, while Labour, Socialist Party, GroenLinks, Liberal VVD and PVV voters are against. – January 6, 2011. http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2011/01/poll_shows_dissent_on_afgh...
-- For earlier polls: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_public_opinion_on_the_war_in_...
DAMAGED SOLDIERS, BROKEN ARMY
In Wider War in Afghanistan, Survival Rate of Wounded Rises
By C. J. Chivers, New York Times [January 7, 2011]
---- Intensified fighting and a larger troop presence in Afghanistan in 2010 led to the highest American combat casualties yet in the war, as the number of troops wounded by bullets, shrapnel and bombs approached that of the bloodiest periods of the war in Iraq. But the available data points to advances in the treatment of the fallen, as the rate at which wounded soldiers who died reached a wartime low. More than 430 American service members died from hostile action in Afghanistan last year through Dec. 21. This was a small fraction of those struck. Nearly 5,500 American troops were wounded in action — more than double the total of 2,415 in 2009, and almost six times the number wounded in 2008. Many more troops — some missing multiple limbs or their genitals, or suffering brain damage — are being rescued from near death. But their wounds will be exceptionally difficult to overcome later as they try to resume work, and social and family lives. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/world/asia/08wounded.html?_r=1&hp
THE WAR IN KABUL
Afghans Strained by Shortages as Iran Tightens Flow of Fuel
By Ray Rivera and Ruhullah Khapalwak, New York Times [January 9, 2011]
---- Hundreds of fuel tankers are stranded at the country’s main border crossings with Iran, stopped by Iranian border agents, and the number making it across has slowed to a trickle. About 40 tankers a day are crossing the border at Herat, Farah and Nimruz Provinces, compared with 250 to 330 a day before, according to commerce and customs officials. About 40 percent of Afghanistan’s fuel comes through Iran, on its western border, although most of it does not originate there. Afghan officials say that the Iranian authorities have told them they have been blocking the trucks out of concern that the fuel is being used by NATO military forces in Afghanistan, an assertion that NATO and the Afghan government deny. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/10/world/asia/10afghan.html?ref=world
U.S. won't pursue Karzai allies in anti-corruption campaign
By Warren P. Strobel and Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Newspapers [January 6, 2011]
---- Under a new anti-corruption strategy for Afghanistan, the U.S. government won't aggressively pursue top Afghan officials suspected of malfeasance, conceding that "limited judicial capacity and political interference" from President Hamid Karzai's government make success in prosecuting them unlikely. Instead, the document puts a priority on fighting corruption at the local level and strengthening Afghan institutions to deal with it, through an array of new and existing initiatives. The anti-corruption plan was delayed for months by vigorous disagreements between officials in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, according to U.S. officials and government audit reports. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/01/06/106314/afghan-anti-corruption-plan...
U.S.-funded infrastructure deteriorates once under Afghan control, report says
By Josh Boak, Washington Post [January 4, 2011]
---- Roads, canals and schools built in Afghanistan as part of a special U.S. military program are crumbling under Afghan stewardship, despite steps imposed over the past year to ensure that reconstruction money is not being wasted, according to government reports and interviews with military and civilian personnel. U.S. troops in Afghanistan have spent $2 billion over six years on 16,000 humanitarian projects through the Commander's Emergency Response Program, which gives a battalion-level commander the power to treat aid dollars as ammunition. A report slated for release this month reveals that CERP projects can quickly slide into neglect after being transferred to Afghan control. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/03/AR201101...
Judges Set to Rule on Afghan Election Complaints Within 2 Weeks
By Michael Kamber, New York Times [January 4, 2011]
----A five-judge panel set up last week by Afghanistan’s Supreme Court said Monday that it would issue rulings within two weeks on hundreds of complaints of election abuse in September’s national vote, in time for President Hamid Karzai to keep his promise to seat a new Parliament by Jan. 20. The panel is the latest player in the tug of war, lasting months, over the vote, which was widely perceived as being seriously tainted by fraud and skewed by rampant insecurity, which kept large numbers of people from the polls. The outcome left Pashtuns — Mr. Karzai’s ethnic group, as well as the Taliban’s main base — largely underrepresented, and the Karzai government has mounted repeated efforts to alter the official results, pushing the country toward a constitutional crisis. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/world/asia/04kabul.html?ref=world
Disappearing ink: Afghanistan's sham democracy
By Matthieu Aikins, Harper’s Magazine [January 2011]
[FB - This issue is not available online w/o a subscription. It’s a good summary of all that went wrong, though, and probably in the library.]
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ARMED OPPOSITION
Afghanistan looks to Pakistan for help with Taliban
By Ben Arnoldy, Christian Science Monitor [January 5, 2011]
---- A high-level peace delegation to Islamabad by a former president of Afghanistan has been overshadowed by Pakistani political turmoil, including the assassination Tuesday of a top governor and a major breakup in the ruling coalition. But former President Burhanuddin Rabbani still met Wednesday with Pakistan’s military chief, Ashfaq Kayani, and will meet with the country’s president and prime minister in the next three days, highlighting the official visit’s importance to the two countries. Mr. Rabbani’s mission is to get Pakistan’s help in nudging the Taliban to the negotiating table. That involves convincing Islamabad that those Afghans who would sit across the table from the Taliban – power brokers like Rabbani who have historical ties to India – are friendly to Pakistan. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2011/0105/Afghanistan-...
Peace Process Failing in Baghlan
From Outlook Afghanistan [January 4, 2011]
---- Over the past year, at least 10 Taliban and other opposition commanders from central Baghlan province have laid down their weapons and joined the peace process, only to return to the insurgency a few months later, taking with them weapons and even military vehicles. The government had said it would help the commanders to solve their disputes with other opposition leaders in the area, which it did not do. In addition, insurgents were promised they could join the police and that they would be given some land. The promises and money that were pledged which never came through are what drove the opposition commanders to return to the insurgency, he said. http://www.outlookafghanistan.net/news_Pages/Local%20news.html#09
TRAINING THE AFGHAN ARMY AND POLICE
Afghanistan NATO Training
By Tarek El-Tablawy, Associated Press [January 5, 2011]
---- By the end of the year, NATO will have spent $20 billion on developing Afghan security forces since the start of 2010 and will maintain a training presence through at least 2016, the commander of the training mission said Wednesday. Soaring illiteracy rates among service members and a shortage of specialized trainers, however, remain major hurdles as Afghans prepare to take control of securing their nation by the 2014 deadline for NATO to withdraw combat forces, said U.S. Lt. Gen. William Caldwell. The $20 billion for 2010 and 2011 is paying for training, equipment and infrastructure. The figure is a large increase over the $20 billion spent between 2003 and 2009. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110105/ap_on_re_as/as_afghan_nato_training
(Video) Afghan National Police: Drug Abuse and Corruption
From 60 Minutes [November 28, 2010]
[This is the first segment on the program.]
THE WAR ON THE GROUND
Special Ops Center to Streamline Secret U.S. War
From the Associated Press [January 6, 2011]
---- The Obama administration has ramped up its secret war on terror groups with a new military targeting center to oversee the growing use of special operations strikes against suspected militants in hot spots around the world, according to current and former U.S. officials. Officials said Afghanistan has been a proving ground for both the military's growing use of special operations forces in raids against militants and in honing its "counter-network" system. Over the past year, the numbers of special operations forces and commando raids against militants have surged in Afghanistan. Two strike forces have grown to 12, according to an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters. "We've gone from 30-35 targeted operations a month in June 2009 now to about 1,000 a month," said NATO spokeswoman Maj. Sunset Belinsky. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/01/06/world/main7218974.shtml
Taliban strength unaffected by allied surge
By Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press [January 6, 2011]
---- A massive effort by U.S. and NATO forces — including offensives in the insurgent heartland and targeted assassinations of rebel leaders — has failed to dent Taliban numerical strength over the past year, according to military and diplomatic officials. A NATO official said this week that the alliance estimates current number of insurgent fighters at up to 25,000, confirming figures provided earlier by several military officers and diplomats. That number is the same as a year ago, before the arrival of an additional 40,000 U.S. and allied troops, and before the alliance launched a massive campaign to restore government control in Helmand province and around the city of Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has kept official figures of enemy strength under wraps throughout the nine-year war. But non-U.S. military assessments have tracked the growth of the Taliban from about 500 armed fighters in 1993 to 25,000 in early 2010. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/01/06/internationa...
Tribe's deal with Afghan government offers chance of peace in southwest district
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post [January 5, 2011]
---- On New Year's Day, leaders of a tribe that has been responsible for numerous attacks in Sangin struck a deal with the Afghan government to cease offensive acts and evict foreign fighters in the area in exchange for the release of a prisoner, the promise of development assistance and the prospect of establishing their own security force. If the agreement with the Alikozai tribe holds - similar pacts have fallen apart elsewhere in the country - it has the potential to pacify a swath of seemingly unwinnable terrain and affect the war across southern Afghanistan. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/04/AR201101...
See also: BBC, “Afghan Taliban attack Sangin truce talks elder,” [January 4, 2011]; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12113891; and Dion Nissenbaum and Hashim Shukoor, “U.S. Marines report peace deal with tribe in Afghan hot spot,’ McClatchy Newspapers [January 3, 2011] http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/01/03/106135/us-marines-report-peace-dea...
US Capture of Afghan Cleric Sparks Protest
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [January 9, 2011]
---- Major protests erupted in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz today, after an overnuight raid on a home by US Special Forces led to the capture of Mullah Nurallah, a local cleric. The Kunduz governor’s office insisted that no Afghan forces were involved in the raid at all, and that it was “carried out by US Special Forces” only. NATO spokesmen insisted that was untrue, and that all raids included Afghan government forces. But perhaps the real mystery is why Mullah Nurallah was targeted in the first place. http://news.antiwar.com/2011/01/09/us-capture-of-afghan-cleric-sparks-pr...
PAKISTAN/INDIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
U.S. to offer more support to Pakistan
By Karen DeYoung, Washington Post [January 8, 2011]
---- The Obama administration has decided to offer Pakistan more military, intelligence and economic support, and to intensify U.S. efforts to forge a regional peace, despite ongoing frustration that Pakistani officials are not doing enough to combat terrorist groups in the country's tribal areas, officials said. President Obama and his top national security aides rejected proposals, made by some military commanders and intelligence officials who have lost patience with Pakistan, to allow U.S. ground forces to conduct targeted raids against insurgent safe havens, officials said. They concluded that the United States can ill afford to threaten or further alienate a precarious, nuclear-armed country whose cooperation is essential to the administration on several fronts. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/07/AR201101...
U.S. and Pakistani spy agency ties suffer strains
By Mark Hosenball, Reuters [January 5, 2011]
---- The critical partnership between intelligence agencies in the United States and Pakistan is under serious strain. Relations between the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Pakistan's principal spy unit, have long been buffeted by tensions over the Pakistani agency's links to militant groups opposed to Pakistan's historical enemy, India. U.S. authorities believe some of these groups are linked to anti-American militants, including al Qaeda and the Taliban. Now, ties between spies in Washington and Islamabad are approaching a nadir, according to half a dozen U.S. officials involved in foreign policy and counterterrorism. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE70500820110106
Millions of Flood Victims in Pakistan Now Face Harsh Winter
By Brian McAfee, Truthout [January 9, 2011]
---- Reports indicate that the hardships from Pakistan's earlier monsoon floods have been exacerbated by the onslaught of winter. The floods impacted 20 million of Pakistan's population of just over 180 million people. As the temperature dips, hundreds of thousands of displaced children and adults are susceptible to pneumonia and other cold-related diseases. http://www.truth-out.org/millions-flood-victims-pakistan-now-face-harsh-...
Cracks in Pakistan’s Governing Coalition
Pakistani Government Salvages Coalition, but at a Steep Price
By Salman Masood and J. David Goodman, New York Times [January 7, 2011]
---- Pakistan’s governing party patched its coalition government back together on Friday, barely holding onto power, but at a price that officials in Washington had feared: the collapse of reforms critical to stabilizing the nation’s economy. The bargain underscored an increasingly urgent problem for both Pakistan and its international backers, especially the United States, which has pushed the government to improve its tax collection and make hard economic choices to ensure the nation’s solvency. If the government wants to survive, the week’s turmoil indicated, that path may be impossible. The power of Pakistan’s industrialists and landed elite in Parliament made raising income and agricultural taxes a treacherous route for the government, despite pressure from the monetary fund. Instead, the government led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and his Pakistan Peoples Party chose to raise fuel prices as the fastest and easiest way to increase revenues, before it struggled with more difficult tax reforms. Now even that tack has failed. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/world/asia/08pakistan.html?ref=world
See also: Khurrum Anis and Peter S. Green, “Gilani to Meet Former Ally After Agreeing to Reduce Pakistan Fuel Prices,” Bloomberg News [January 7, 2011] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2011-01-06/pakistan-prime-minister-c... “Key Party Rejoins Pakistan’s Coalition, Associated Press [January 7, 2010] http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2011/01/07/world/asia/AP-AS-Pakistan.htm... Omar Waraich, “Pakistan's coalition averts crisis with a U-turn,” The Independent [UK] [January 8, 2011] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/pakistans-coalition-averts-... and “Gilani says 'yes' to PML-N 10-point agenda,” The News [Pakistan] [January 9, 2011] http://thenews.com.pk/NewsDetail.aspx?ID=903
Implications of the Assassination of a Leading Politician
Death of Pakistani Secularism Much Exaggerated
By Juan Cole, Indormed Comment [January 10, 2011]
---- There has been a lot of hand-wringing about religious extremism in Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer. On Sunday the fundamentalist religious parties held a rally some 40,000 strong in the southern port city of Karachi against repealing Pakistan’s blasphemy law, as the Pakistan People’s Party MP Sherry Rahman proposes. It would be foolish to deny that Pakistan has a problem with religious extremism. But outsiders do not actually understand the country very well and have no sense of scale, so it is hard for them to judge the significance of these events. Here I want to offer five ironies of religious extremism in that country, in an attempt to signal that the story is more complicated and requires more nuance than you find at typical American anti-Muslim hate blogs. http://www.juancole.com/2011/01/death-of-pakistani-secularism-much-exagg...
Pakistan: When The State Loses Control
By Christian Caryl, New York Review of Books [January 6, 2011]
---- It’s not just that Taseer was an advocate of a secular, pluralistic Pakistan who stood up, on a number of occasions, to the forces of intolerance. It’s not just that he was the head of Pakistan’s richest and most populous province. No, what’s particularly worrisome about this case is the failure of the Pakistani political system to protect one of its own. The West, and especially the United States, should also take notice. It is time for policymakers in Washington to understand that Pakistan is not simply a vexing sideshow to the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan—populous, chaotic, and nuclear-armed—needs to be taken seriously in its own right. http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/jan/06/pakistan-when-state-los...
See also: Hannah Guman, “Will US Use Punjab Governor’s Death as Pretext for More Drone Attacks?” Antiwar.com [January 7, 2011] http://original.antiwar.com/hannah-gurman/2011/01/06/will-us-use-punjab-... Aadil Wainwright, “Taseer’s Assassination Lays Bare Contradictions in Pakistani Islam,” Informed Comment [January 7, 2011] http://www.juancole.com/2011/01/wainwright-taseers-assassination-lays-ba... and David E. Sanger, “A Pakistani’s Assassin’s Long Reach,” New York Times [January 8, 2011] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/weekinreview/09sanger.html?ref=world
By Robert C. Koehler, CommonDreams [January 7, 2011]
---- The media can spread ignorance not merely by reporting inaccurate information, but by purveying even accurate or partially accurate information in a context devoid of the least moral intelligence. Some of us are chilled by the advent of drone warfare - yet one more technical advance in the depersonalization of killing - but as I think about the sort of reporting that evinces no curiosity about such warfare, that simply and bloodlessly disseminates its results, I realize that "drone reporting" has been going on for a long time. This is reporting more or less free of human perspective, which abstracts life and death and subordinates it to the strategic agenda of one side; and, in my view, allows our wars to continue. http://www.commondreams.org/print/64161
See also: Amir Mir, Drones hunted down only 20 high value targets,” The News [Pakistan] [January 4, 2011] http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=23856&Cat=2&dt=1%2F4... and Jason Ditz, “Report: CIA Drones Killed Over 2,000, Mostly Civilians in Pakistan Since 2006,” Antiwar.com [January 2, 2011] http://news.antiwar.com/2011/01/02/report-cia-drones-killed-over-2000-mo...
NATO AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
Germany to Set End-2011 Start Date For Afghan Pullout
From Reuters [January 8, 2011]
---- The German government will ask parliament this month for approval to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year, excerpts of the proposal obtained by Reuters showed on Saturday. The measure is likely to pass easily, with opposition backing. http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2011/01/08/world/international-us-germany...
CENTRAL ASIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
China Quietly Extends Footprints Into Central Asia
By Edward Wong, New York Times [January 2, 2011]
---- The five predominantly Muslim countries that won independence after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — are once again arenas for superpower rivalry. This time the players are China, Russia and the United States, which uses Central Asia as a conduit for troops to Afghanistan. Chinese officials are wary of what they view as American efforts to surround China, seeing American troops and military alliances in Central Asia, India and Afghanistan as the western arc of a containment strategy that also relies on cooperation with nations in East and Southeast Asia. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/03/world/asia/03china.html?hpw
THE WIKILEAKS LEAK – WEEK SIX
Sources for Cables and Media Coverage
---- WikiLeaks has a new home at www.wikileaks.ch, courtesy of the Swiss Pirate Party. As of today, 2,023 cables have been released. They can be searched (e.g., for “Afghanistan” or “corruption”) at http://cablesearch.org/. Another useful site is WikiLeaks Central: “An unofficial WikiLeaks information resource”: http://wlcentral.org// The Wikipedia entry on WikiLeaks is comprehensive and up-to-date: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_diplomatic_cables_leak. The best WikiLeaks archives in the mainstream media are at The Guardian [UK] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/the-us-embassy-cables and Aljazeera http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/spotlight/usembassyfiles/. The New York Times’ site is at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/world/statessecrets.html?hp. Of the several blogs about the cables and the controversy surrounding them, the best one imo is by Greg Mitchell at The Nation - http://www.thenation.com/authors/greg-mitchell.
Some Comments and Analysis
Patrick Cockburn, “Puncturing the Balloon of ‘State Secrets,’” Counterpunch [January 3, 2011]
Sarah Ellison, “The Man Who Spilled the Secrets,” Vanity Fair [February 2011] http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2011/02/the-guardian-201102?...
Javier Moreno, “Why EL PAÍS chose to publish the leaks,” El Pais [Spain] [December 23, 2010]
Ray McGovern, “Obama Should Read WikiLeaks on Afghanistan,” Antiwar.com [January 4, 2011]
Guy Adams, “Private memo exposes US fears over Wikileaks,” The Independent [UK] [January 6, 2011]
Dominic Rushe, “US tells Twitter to hand over WikiLeaks supporter's messages,” The Guardian [Janaury 8, 2011] http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/08/us-twitter-hand-icelandic-wi...
Juan Cole, “Wikileaks: Israel Plans Total War on Lebanon, Gaza,” Informed Comment [January 2, 2011]