Our Announcements

Not Found

Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn't here.

Posts Tagged Drone attacks

2009: The Secret US War in Pakistan by Jeremy Scahill

us_pakistan

The Secret US War in Pakistan

 

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

About the Author

Jeremy Scahill
Jeremy Scahill
Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater…

Also by the Author

Obama discussed the targeted killing operation today, but will anything really change?

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater’s involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so “compartmentalized” that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, “We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature.” A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. “We don’t have any contracts to do that work for us. We don’t contract that kind of work out, period,” the official said. “There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services.”

Blackwater’s founder Erik Prince contradicted this statement in a recent interview, telling Vanity Fair that Blackwater works with US Special Forces in identifying targets and planning missions, citing an operation in Syria. The magazine also published a photo of a Blackwater base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency’s director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. “This is a parallel operation to the CIA,” said the source. “They are two separate beasts.” The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war–knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country.

Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. “Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government,” Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has “no other operations of any kind in Pakistan.”

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source’s claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province (Khyber PakhtunKhwa) and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.

His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater’s covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, “From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct,” adding, “There’s no question that’s occurring.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me because we’ve outsourced nearly everything,” said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, when told of Blackwater’s role in Pakistan. Wilkerson said that during his time in the Bush administration, he saw the beginnings of Blackwater’s involvement with the sensitive operations of the military and CIA. “Part of this, of course, is an attempt to get around the constraints the Congress has placed on DoD. If you don’t have sufficient soldiers to do it, you hire civilians to do it. I mean, it’s that simple. It would not surprise me.”

The Counterterrorism Tag Team in Karachi

The covert JSOC program with Blackwater in Pakistan dates back to at least 2007, according to the military intelligence source. The current head of JSOC is Vice Adm. William McRaven, who took over the post from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008 before being named the top US commander in Afghanistan. Blackwater’s presence in Pakistan is “not really visible, and that’s why nobody has cracked down on it,” said the source. Blackwater’s operations in Pakistan, he said, are not done through State Department contracts or publicly identified Defense contracts. “It’s Blackwater via JSOC, and it’s a classified no-bid [contract] approved on a rolling basis.” The main JSOC/Blackwater facility in Karachi, according to the source, is nondescript: three trailers with various generators, satellite phones and computer systems are used as a makeshift operations center. “It’s a very rudimentary operation,” says the source. “I would compare it to [CIA] outposts in Kurdistan or any of the Special Forces outposts. It’s very bare bones, and that’s the point.”

Blackwater’s work for JSOC in Karachi is coordinated out of a Task Force based at Bagram Air Base in neighboring Afghanistan, according to the military intelligence source. While JSOC technically runs the operations in Karachi, he said, it is largely staffed by former US special operations soldiers working for a division of Blackwater, once known as Blackwater SELECT, and intelligence analysts working for a Blackwater affiliate, Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), which is owned by Erik Prince. The military source said that the name Blackwater SELECT may have been changed recently. Total Intelligence, which is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia, is staffed by former analysts and operatives from the CIA, DIA, FBI and other agencies. It is modeled after the CIA’s counterterrorism center. In Karachi, TIS runs a “media-scouring/open-source network,” according to the source. Until recently, Total Intelligence was run by two former top CIA officials, Cofer Black and Robert Richer, both of whom have left the company. In Pakistan, Blackwater is not using either its original name or its new moniker, Xe Services, according to the former Blackwater executive. “They are running most of their work through TIS because the other two [names] have such a stain on them,” he said. Corallo, the Blackwater spokesperson, denied that TIS or any other division or affiliate of Blackwater has any personnel in Pakistan.

The US military intelligence source said that Blackwater’s classified contracts keep getting renewed at the request of JSOC. Blackwater, he said, is already so deeply entrenched that it has become a staple of the US military operations in Pakistan. According to the former Blackwater executive, “The politics that go with the brand of BW is somewhat set aside because what you’re doing is really one military guy to another.” Blackwater’s first known contract with the CIA for operations in Afghanistan was awarded in 2002 and was for work along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

One of the concerns raised by the military intelligence source is that some Blackwater personnel are being given rolling security clearances above their approved clearances. Using Alternative Compartmentalized Control Measures (ACCMs), he said, the Blackwater personnel are granted clearance to a Special Access Program, the bureaucratic term used to describe highly classified “black” operations. “With an ACCM, the security manager can grant access to you to be exposed to and operate within compartmentalized programs far above ‘secret’–even though you have no business doing so,” said the source. It allows Blackwater personnel that “do not have the requisite security clearance or do not hold a security clearance whatsoever to participate in classified operations by virtue of trust,” he added. “Think of it as an ultra-exclusive level above top secret. That’s exactly what it is: a circle of love.” Blackwater, therefore, has access to “all source” reports that are culled in part from JSOC units in the field. “That’s how a lot of things over the years have been conducted with contractors,” said the source. “We have contractors that regularly see things that top policy-makers don’t unless they ask.”

According to the source, Blackwater has effectively marketed itself as a company whose operatives have “conducted lethal direct action missions and now, for a price, you can have your own planning cell. JSOC just ate that up,” he said, adding, “They have a sizable force in Pakistan–not for any nefarious purpose if you really want to look at it that way–but to support a legitimate contract that’s classified for JSOC.” Blackwater’s Pakistan JSOC contracts are secret and are therefore shielded from public oversight, he said. The source is not sure when the arrangement with JSOC began, but he says that a spin-off of Blackwater SELECT “was issued a no-bid contract for support to shooters for a JSOC Task Force and they kept extending it.” Some of the Blackwater personnel, he said, work undercover as aid workers. “Nobody even gives them a second thought.”

The military intelligence source said that the Blackwater/JSOC Karachi operation is referred to as “Qatar cubed,” in reference to the US forward operating base in Qatar that served as the hub for the planning and implementation of the US invasion of Iraq. “This is supposed to be the brave new world,” he says. “This is the Jamestown of the new millennium and it’s meant to be a lily pad. You can jump off to Uzbekistan, you can jump back over the border, you can jump sideways, you can jump northwest. It’s strategically located so that they can get their people wherever they have to without having to wrangle with the military chain of command in Afghanistan, which is convoluted. They don’t have to deal with that because they’re operating under a classified mandate.”

In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and the CIA, the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for JSOC inside Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, according to the military intelligence source. Blackwater does not actually carry out the operations, he said, which are executed on the ground by JSOC forces. “That piqued my curiosity and really worries me because I don’t know if you noticed but I was never told we are at war with Uzbekistan,” he said. “So, did I miss something, did Rumsfeld come back into power?”

Pakistan’s Military Contracting Maze

Blackwater, according to the military intelligence source, is not doing the actual killing as part of its work in Pakistan. “The SELECT personnel are not going into places with private aircraft and going after targets,” he said. “It’s not like Blackwater SELECT people are running around assassinating people.” Instead, US Special Forces teams carry out the plans developed in part by Blackwater. The military intelligence source drew a distinction between the Blackwater operatives who work for the State Department, which he calls “Blackwater Vanilla,” and the seasoned Special Forces veterans who work on the JSOC program. “Good or bad, there’s a small number of people who know how to pull off an operation like that. That’s probably a good thing,” said the source. “It’s the Blackwater SELECT people that have and continue to plan these types of operations because they’re the only people that know how and they went where the money was. It’s not trigger-happy fucks, like some of the PSD [Personal Security Detail] guys. These are not people that believe that Barack Obama is a socialist, these are not people that kill innocent civilians. They’re very good at what they do.”

The former Blackwater executive, when asked for confirmation that Blackwater forces were not actively killing people in Pakistan, said, “that’s not entirely accurate.” While he concurred with the military intelligence source’s description of the JSOC and CIA programs, he pointed to another role Blackwater is allegedly playing in Pakistan, not for the US government but for Islamabad. According to the executive, Blackwater works on a subcontract for Kestral Logistics, a powerful Pakistani firm, which specializes in military logistical support, private security and intelligence consulting. It is staffed with former high-ranking Pakistani army and government officials. While Kestral’s main offices are in Pakistan, it also has branches in several other countries.

A spokesperson for the US State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), which is responsible for issuing licenses to US corporations to provide defense-related services to foreign governments or entities, would neither confirm nor deny for The Nation that Blackwater has a license to work in Pakistan or to work with Kestral. “We cannot help you,” said department spokesperson David McKeeby after checking with the relevant DDTC officials. “You’ll have to contact the companies directly.” Blackwater’s Corallo said the company has “no operations of any kind” in Pakistan other than the one employee working for the DoD. Kestral did not respond to inquiries from The Nation.

According to federal lobbying records, Kestral recently hired former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, who served in that post from 2003 to 2005, to lobby the US government, including the State Department, USAID and Congress, on foreign affairs issues “regarding [Kestral’s] capabilities to carry out activities of interest to the United States.” Noriega was hired through his firm, Vision Americas, which he runs with Christina Rocca, a former CIA operations official who served as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 2001 to 2006 and was deeply involved in shaping US policy toward Pakistan. In October 2009, Kestral paid Vision Americas $15,000 and paid a Vision Americas-affiliated firm, Firecreek Ltd., an equal amount to lobby on defense and foreign policy issues.

For years, Kestral has done a robust business in defense logistics with the Pakistani government and other nations, as well as top US defense companies. Blackwater owner Erik Prince is close with Kestral CEO Liaquat Ali Baig, according to the former Blackwater executive. “Ali and Erik have a pretty close relationship,” he said. “They’ve met many times and struck a deal, and they [offer] mutual support for one another.” Working with Kestral, he said, Blackwater has provided convoy security for Defense Department shipments destined for Afghanistan that would arrive in the port at Karachi. Blackwater, according to the former executive, would guard the supplies as they were transported overland from Karachi to Peshawar and then west through the Torkham border crossing, the most important supply route for the US military in Afghanistan.

According to the former executive, Blackwater operatives also integrate with Kestral’s forces in sensitive counterterrorism operations in the North-West Frontier Province, where they work in conjunction with the Pakistani Interior Ministry’s paramilitary force, known as the Frontier Corps (alternately referred to as “frontier scouts”). The Blackwater personnel are technically advisers, but the former executive said that the line often gets blurred in the field. Blackwater “is providing the actual guidance on how to do [counterterrorism operations] and Kestral’s folks are carrying a lot of them out, but they’re having the guidance and the overwatch from some BW guys that will actually go out with the teams when they’re executing the job,” he said. “You can see how that can lead to other things in the border areas.” He said that when Blackwater personnel are out with the Pakistani teams, sometimes its men engage in operations against suspected terrorists. “You’ve got BW guys that are assisting… and they’re all going to want to go on the jobs–so they’re going to go with them,” he said. “So, the things that you’re seeing in the news about how this Pakistani military group came in and raided this house or did this or did that–in some of those cases, you’re going to have Western folks that are right there at the house, if not in the house.” Blackwater, he said, is paid by the Pakistani government through Kestral for consulting services. “That gives the Pakistani government the cover to say, ‘Hey, no, we don’t have any Westerners doing this. It’s all local and our people are doing it.’ But it gets them the expertise that Westerners provide for [counterterrorism]-related work.”

The military intelligence source confirmed Blackwater works with the Frontier Corps, saying, “There’s no real oversight. It’s not really on people’s radar screen.”

In October, in response to Pakistani news reports that a Kestral warehouse in Islamabad was being used to store heavy weapons for Blackwater, the US Embassy in Pakistan released a statement denying the weapons were being used by “a private American security contractor.” The statement said, “Kestral Logistics is a private logistics company that handles the importation of equipment and supplies provided by the United States to the Government of Pakistan. All of the equipment and supplies were imported at the request of the Government of Pakistan, which also certified the shipments.”

Who is Behind the Drone Attacks?

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the United States has expanded drone bombing raids in Pakistan. Obama first ordered a drone strike against targets in North and South Waziristan on January 23, and the strikes have been conducted consistently ever since. The Obama administration has now surpassed the number of Bush-era strikes in Pakistan and has faced fierce criticism from Pakistan and some US lawmakers over civilian deaths. A drone attack in June killed as many as sixty people attending a Taliban funeral.

In August, the New York Times reported that Blackwater works for the CIA at “hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the company’s contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft.” In February, The Times of London obtained a satellite image of a secret CIA airbase in Shamsi, in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan, showing three drone aircraft. The New York Times also reported that the agency uses a secret base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, to strike in Pakistan.

The military intelligence source says that the drone strike that reportedly killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, his wife and his bodyguards in Waziristan in August was a CIA strike, but that many others attributed in media reports to the CIA are actually JSOC strikes. “Some of these strikes are attributed to OGA [Other Government Agency, intelligence parlance for the CIA], but in reality it’s JSOC and their parallel program of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] because they also have access to UAVs. So when you see some of these hits, especially the ones with high civilian casualties, those are almost always JSOC strikes.” The Pentagon has stated bluntly, “There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan.”

The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater continues to work for the CIA on its drone bombing program in Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added that Blackwater is working on JSOC’s drone bombings as well. “It’s Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC,” said the source. When civilians are killed, “people go, ‘Oh, it’s the CIA doing crazy shit again unchecked.’ Well, at least 50 percent of the time, that’s JSOC [hitting] somebody they’ve identified through HUMINT [human intelligence] or they’ve culled the intelligence themselves or it’s been shared with them and they take that person out and that’s how it works.”

The military intelligence source says that the CIA operations are subject to Congressional oversight, unlike the parallel JSOC bombings. “Targeted killings are not the most popular thing in town right now and the CIA knows that,” he says. “Contractors and especially JSOC personnel working under a classified mandate are not [overseen by Congress], so they just don’t care. If there’s one person they’re going after and there’s thirty-four people in the building, thirty-five people are going to die. That’s the mentality.” He added, “They’re not accountable to anybody and they know that. It’s an open secret, but what are you going to do, shut down JSOC?”

In addition to working on covert action planning and drone strikes, Blackwater SELECT also provides private guards to perform the sensitive task of security for secret US drone bases, JSOC camps and Defense Intelligence Agency camps inside Pakistan, according to the military intelligence source.

Mosharraf Zaidi, a well-known Pakistani journalist who has served as a consultant for the UN and European Union in Pakistan and Afghanistan, says that the Blackwater/JSOC program raises serious questions about the norms of international relations. “The immediate question is, How do you define the active pursuit of military objectives in a country with which not only have you not declared war but that is supposedly a front-line non-NATO ally in the US struggle to contain extremist violence coming out of Afghanistan and the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan?” asks Zaidi, who is currently a columnist for The News, the biggest English-language daily in Pakistan. “Let’s forget Blackwater for a second. What this is confirming is that there are US military operations in Pakistan that aren’t about logistics or getting food to Bagram; that are actually about the exercise of physical violence, physical force inside of Pakistani territory.”

JSOC: Rumsfeld and Cheney’s Extra Special Force

Colonel Wilkerson said that he is concerned that with General McChrystal’s elevation as the military commander of the Afghan war–which is increasingly seeping into Pakistan–there is a concomitant rise in JSOC’s power and influence within the military structure. “I don’t see how you can escape that; it’s just a matter of the way the authority flows and the power flows, and it’s inevitable, I think,” Wilkerson told The Nation. He added, “I’m alarmed when I see execute orders and combat orders that go out saying that the supporting force is Central Command and the supported force is Special Operations Command,” under which JSOC operates. “That’s backward. But that’s essentially what we have today.”

From 2003 to 2008 McChrystal headed JSOC, which is headquartered at Pope Air Force Base and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Blackwater’s 7,000-acre operating base is also situated. JSOC controls the Army’s Delta Force, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, as well as the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron. JSOC performs strike operations, reconnaissance in denied areas and special intelligence missions. Blackwater, which was founded by former Navy SEALs, employs scores of veteran Special Forces operators–which several former military officials pointed to as the basis for Blackwater’s alleged contracts with JSOC.

Since 9/11, many top-level Special Forces veterans have taken up employment with private firms, where they can make more money doing the highly specialized work they did in uniform. “The Blackwater individuals have the experience. A lot of these individuals are retired military, and they’ve been around twenty to thirty years and have experience that the younger Green Beret guys don’t,” said retired Army Lieut. Col. Jeffrey Addicott, a well-connected military lawyer who served as senior legal counsel for US Army Special Forces. “They’re known entities. Everybody knows who they are, what their capabilities are, and they’ve got the experience. They’re very valuable.”

“They make much more money being the smarts of these operations, planning hits in various countries and basing it off their experience in Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Ethiopia,” said the military intelligence source. “They were there for all of these things, they know what the hell they’re talking about. And JSOC has unfortunately lost the institutional capability to plan within, so they hire back people that used to work for them and had already planned and executed these [types of] operations. They hired back people that jumped over to Blackwater SELECT and then pay them exorbitant amounts of money to plan future operations. It’s a ridiculous revolving door.”

While JSOC has long played a central role in US counterterrorism and covert operations, military and civilian officials who worked at the Defense and State Departments during the Bush administration described in interviews with The Nation an extremely cozy relationship that developed between the executive branch (primarily through Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) and JSOC. During the Bush era, Special Forces turned into a virtual stand-alone operation that acted outside the military chain of command and in direct coordination with the White House. Throughout the Bush years, it was largely General McChrystal who ran JSOC. “What I was seeing was the development of what I would later see in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Special Operations forces would operate in both theaters without the conventional commander even knowing what they were doing,” said Colonel Wilkerson. “That’s dangerous, that’s very dangerous. You have all kinds of mess when you don’t tell the theater commander what you’re doing.”

Wilkerson said that almost immediately after assuming his role at the State Department under Colin Powell, he saw JSOC being politicized and developing a close relationship with the executive branch. He saw this begin, he said, after his first Delta Force briefing at Fort Bragg. “I think Cheney and Rumsfeld went directly into JSOC. I think they went into JSOC at times, perhaps most frequently, without the SOCOM [Special Operations] commander at the time even knowing it. The receptivity in JSOC was quite good,” says Wilkerson. “I think Cheney was actually giving McChrystal instructions, and McChrystal was asking him for instructions.” He said the relationship between JSOC and Cheney and Rumsfeld “built up initially because Rumsfeld didn’t get the responsiveness. He didn’t get the can-do kind of attitude out of the SOCOM commander, and so as Rumsfeld was wont to do, he cut him out and went straight to the horse’s mouth. At that point you had JSOC operating as an extension of the [administration] doing things the executive branch–read: Cheney and Rumsfeld–wanted it to do. This would be more or less carte blanche. You need to do it, do it. It was very alarming for me as a conventional soldier.”

Wilkerson said the JSOC teams caused diplomatic problems for the United States across the globe. “When these teams started hitting capital cities and other places all around the world, [Rumsfeld] didn’t tell the State Department either. The only way we found out about it is our ambassadors started to call us and say, ‘Who the hell are these six-foot-four white males with eighteen-inch biceps walking around our capital cities?’ So we discovered this, we discovered one in South America, for example, because he actually murdered a taxi driver, and we had to get him out of there real quick. We rendered him–we rendered him home.”

As part of their strategy, Rumsfeld and Cheney also created the Strategic Support Branch (SSB), which pulled intelligence resources from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA for use in sensitive JSOC operations. The SSB was created using “reprogrammed” funds “without explicit congressional authority or appropriation,” according to the Washington Post. The SSB operated outside the military chain of command and circumvented the CIA’s authority on clandestine operations. Rumsfeld created it as part of his war to end “near total dependence on CIA.” Under US law, the Defense Department is required to report all deployment orders to Congress. But guidelines issued in January 2005 by former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone stated that Special Operations forces may “conduct clandestine HUMINT operations…before publication” of a deployment order. This effectively gave Rumsfeld unilateral control over clandestine operations.

The military intelligence source said that when Rumsfeld was defense secretary, JSOC was deployed to commit some of the “darkest acts” in part to keep them concealed from Congress. “Everything can be justified as a military operation versus a clandestine intelligence performed by the CIA, which has to be informed to Congress,” said the source. “They were aware of that and they knew that, and they would exploit it at every turn and they took full advantage of it. They knew they could act extra-legally and nothing would happen because A, it was sanctioned by DoD at the highest levels, and B, who was going to stop them? They were preparing the battlefield, which was on all of the PowerPoints: ‘Preparing the Battlefield.'”

The significance of the flexibility of JSOC’s operations inside Pakistan versus the CIA’s is best summed up by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Every single intelligence operation and covert action must be briefed to the Congress,” she said. “If they are not, that is a violation of the law.”

Blackwater: Company Non Grata in Pakistan

For months, the Pakistani media has been flooded with stories about Blackwater’s alleged growing presence in the country. For the most part, these stories have been ignored by the US press and denounced as lies or propaganda by US officials in Pakistan. But the reality is that, although many of the stories appear to be wildly exaggerated, Pakistanis have good reason to be concerned about Blackwater’s operations in their country. It is no secret in Washington or Islamabad that Blackwater has been a central part of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that the company has been involved–almost from the beginning of the “war on terror”–with clandestine US operations. Indeed, Blackwater is accepting applications for contractors fluent in Urdu and Punjabi. The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, has denied Blackwater’s presence in the country, stating bluntly in September, “Blackwater is not operating in Pakistan.” In her trip to Pakistan in October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dodged questions from the Pakistani press about Blackwater’s rumored Pakistani operations. Pakistan’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, said on November 21 he will resign if Blackwater is found operating anywhere in Pakistan.

The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that Blackwater “provides security for a US-backed aid project” in Peshawar, suggesting the company may be based out of the Pearl Continental, a luxury hotel the United States reportedly is considering purchasing to use as a consulate in the city. “We have no contracts in Pakistan,” Blackwater spokesperson Stacey DeLuke said recently. “We’ve been blamed for all that has gone wrong in Peshawar, none of which is true, since we have absolutely no presence there.”

Reports of Blackwater’s alleged presence in Karachi and elsewhere in the country have been floating around the Pakistani press for months. Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist who rose to fame after his 1997 interview with Osama bin Laden, claimed in a recent interview that Blackwater is in Karachi. “The US [intelligence] agencies think that a number of Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are hiding in Karachi and Peshawar,” he said. “That is why [Blackwater] agents are operating in these two cities.” Ambassador Patterson has said that the claims of Mir and other Pakistani journalists are “wildly incorrect,” saying they had compromised the security of US personnel in Pakistan. On November 20 the Washington Times, citing three current and former US intelligence officials, reported that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, has “found refuge from potential U.S. attacks” in Karachi “with the assistance of Pakistan’s intelligence service.”

In September, the Pakistani press covered a report on Blackwater allegedly submitted by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to the federal interior ministry. In the report, the intelligence agencies reportedly allege that Blackwater was provided houses by a federal minister who is also helping them clear shipments of weapons and vehicles through Karachi’s Port Qasim on the coast of the Arabian Sea. The military intelligence source did not confirm this but did say, “The port jives because they have a lot of [former] SEALs and they would revert to what they know: the ocean, instead of flying stuff in.”

The Nation cannot independently confirm these allegations and has not seen the Pakistani intelligence report. But according to Pakistani press coverage, the intelligence report also said Blackwater has acquired “bungalows” in the Defense Housing Authority in the city. According to the DHA website, it is a large residential estate originally established “for the welfare of the serving and retired officers of the Armed Forces of Pakistan.” Its motto is: “Home for Defenders.” The report alleges Blackwater is receiving help from local government officials in Karachi and is using vehicles with license plates traditionally assigned to members of the national and provincial assemblies, meaning local law enforcement will not stop them.

The use of private companies like Blackwater for sensitive operations such as drone strikes or other covert work undoubtedly comes with the benefit of plausible deniability that places an additional barrier in an already deeply flawed system of accountability. When things go wrong, it’s the contractors’ fault, not the government’s. But the widespread use of contractors also raises serious legal questions, particularly when they are a part of lethal, covert actions. “We are using contractors for things that in the past might have been considered to be a violation of the Geneva Convention,” said Lt. Col. Addicott, who now runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. “In my opinion, we have pressed the envelope to the breaking limit, and it’s almost a fiction that these guys are not in offensive military operations.” Addicott added, “If we were subjected to the International Criminal Court, some of these guys could easily be picked up, charged with war crimes and put on trial. That’s one of the reasons we’re not members of the International Criminal Court.”

If there is one quality that has defined Blackwater over the past decade, it is the ability to survive against the odds while simultaneously reinventing and rebranding itself. That is most evident in Afghanistan, where the company continues to work for the US military, the CIA and the State Department despite intense criticism and almost weekly scandals. Blackwater’s alleged Pakistan operations, said the military intelligence source, are indicative of its new frontier. “Having learned its lessons after the private security contracting fiasco in Iraq, Blackwater has shifted its operational focus to two venues: protecting things that are in danger and anticipating other places we’re going to go as a nation that are dangerous,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

, , , ,

No Comments

From Pol Pot to ISIS: “Anything that Flies on Everything that Moves” By John Pilger

From Pol Pot to ISIS: “Anything that Flies on Everything that Moves”

By John Pilger

 

 

 

 

images-1

 

Pakistani Baby Victim of Drone Attack

 

 

 

October 09, 2014 “ICH” –  In transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, “Anything that flies on everything that moves”.  As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.

 

As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again.  A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.

 

According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of “fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders”. Once Nixon’s and Kissinger’s B52 bombers had gone to work as part of “Operation Menu”, the west’s ultimate demon could not believe his luck.

 

The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They levelled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left monstrous necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors “froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told … That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over.”

 

A Finnish Government Commission of Enquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the “first stage in a decade of genocide”.  What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed.  Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.  

 

ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people — in a country that had no history of jihadism. The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common. Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.  

 

Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda — like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” — seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed. “Rebel” Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable. A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently, “The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”

 

ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity. Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in “our” societies.

 

It is 23 years since this holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive “sanctions” on the Iraqi population – ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege. Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, “blocked” — from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.

 

Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, a medical doctor and parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. “The children’s vaccines”, he said, “were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction”. The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq – much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office — blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.

 

Under a bogus “humanitarian” Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society’s infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water.  “Imagine,” the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, “setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.”

 

Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. “I was instructed,” Halliday said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults.”

 

A study by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 “excess” deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, “Is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”

 

In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as “Mr. Iraq”, told a parliamentary selection committee, “[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live.”  When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. “I feel ashamed,” he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. “We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he said, “or we’d freeze them out.”

 

On 25 September, a headline in the Guardian read: “Faced with the horror of Isis we must act.”  The “we must act” is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC’s Newsnight as an “apologist for Saddam”. In 2003, Hain backed Blair’s invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a “fringe issue”.

 

Now Hain is demanding “air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support” for those “facing genocide” in Iraq and Syria. This will further “the imperative of a political solution”. Obama has the same in mind as he lifts what he calls the “restrictions” on US bombing and drone attacks. This means that missiles and 500-pound bombs can smash the homes of peasant people, as they are doing without restriction in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia — as they did in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. On 23 September, a Tomahawk cruise missile hit a village in Idlib Province in Syria, killing as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children. None waved a black flag.

 

The day Hain’s article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce. Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria.

 

Like Ebola from West Africa, a bacteria called “perpetual war” has crossed the Atlantic. Lord Richards, until recently head of the British military, wants “boots on the ground” now. There is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Obama and their “coalition of the willing” – notably Australia’s aggressively weird Tony Abbott — as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They have never seen bombing and they apparently love it so much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally,  Syria. This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:

 

“In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces … a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals… a necessary degree of fear… frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS should use… capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”

That was written in 1957, though it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes. Last year, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned.  “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria … Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate … This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

 

The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west – Syria, Iran, Hezbollah.  The obstacle is Turkey, an “ally” and a member of Nato, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian “rebels”, including those now calling themselves ISIS. Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.

 

A truce – however difficult to achieve – is the only way out of this imperial maze; otherwise, the beheadings will continue. That genuine negotiations with Syria should be seen as “morally questionable” (the Guardian) suggests that the assumptions of moral superiority among those who supported the war criminal Blair remain not only absurd, but dangerous.

 

Together with a truce, there should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region’s most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear. Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.

 

More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered. The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq. With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger’s latest self-serving tome has just been released with its satirical title, “World Order”. In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a “key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century”. Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his “statecraft”.  Only when “we” recognise the war criminals in our midst will the blood begin to dry.

JohnPilger.com – the films and journalism of John Pilger

 
           
JohnPilger.com – the films and journalism of John Pilger

JohnPilger.com – the films and journalism of John Pilger

View on www.johnpilger.com Preview by Yahoo
 

, , , ,

No Comments

Pakistan – US Relations by K.Hussan Zia

Pakistan – US Relations

K.Hussan Zia

 

 

 

Unknown-8

 

 

 

 

To understand a country one has to really know the ethos of its people. This is not always easy for someone who is not a part of the culture. The inability to understand often leads to poor judgement and miscalculation. Just to give one example, a joint US National Intelligence Council and CIA report released in 2000 predicted: “by year 2015 Pakistan would be a failed state, ripe with civil war, bloodshed, inter-provincial rivalries and a struggle for control of its nuclear weapons and complete Talibanisation” (The Times of India, 13th February, 2005). 2015 is almost here but the dire prediction seems nowhere near coming true.
There is much misinformation and many misconceptions about Pakistan. Unfortunately, most of these are negative as well as deeply embedded. There is conceptual and practical confusion that some people think has been fostered deliberately. Human beings tend to sub-consciously erect a defensive wall of cognitive dissonance in such situations. Perceptions are not easily dispelled. The best I hope to do is to explain the facts as I see them and leave the rest to you.
Not Intolerant
There is a general impression that people in Pakistan are bigoted and intolerant. In reality they happen to be anything but that.
According to a survey published in The Washington Post last year (15th May 2013), Pakistanis are more tolerant than people in almost all the countries in Europe, including France, Germany and Holland. Only Norway, Sweden and Britain have a higher rating. About 6.5% of Pakistanis said they would not like to have a neighbour from a different race. In India, on the other hand, more than 40 % of the people would apparently not like it.http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/05/15/a-fascinating-map-of-the-worlds-most-and-least-racially-tolerant-countries/
Also not Violent
Pakistanis are also not violent. The rate of deaths due to violence per 100,000 people in Pakistan is still less than that in the US (5.0 as against 6.5). It is only a fraction of what it is in almost all of Africa, Latin America (including Mexico) and also Russia. It is about the same as for India and Israel but less than in most of Eastern Europe. (http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/violence/by-country/)
The incidents of rape in Pakistan are among the lowest in the world —- less than one thousand a year for a population of 180 million. France on the other hand, with one-third the population of Pakistan, averages more than 10,000 cases a year. President Carter, in his recent book ‘A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Power and Politicsclaims some 12,000 women in the US military alone were raped in 2012. Yet, ironically, human rights organizations in the West chose a rape victim from Pakistan and paraded her around the world to symbolize the plight of women in general. (http://www.salon.com/2014/04/10/america_as_the_no_1_warmonger_president_jimmy_carter_talks_to_salon_about_race_cable_news_slut_shaming_and_more/?source=newsletter).
Karachi is often labeled in the western media as the ‘most dangerous city in the world’ (The Financial Times, 28th June, 2014). If you were to do a Google search of the top fifty most dangerous cities in the world you will not find Karachi’s name on the list. http://www.businessinsider.com/most-dangerous-cities-in-the-world-2012-10#
The rate of violent crime in Detroit, Michigan is seven times greater than that in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city. (http://www.beyondtheheadlines.org/lovely-lahore/)
 
Terrorism
Much is also made of religious extremism and incidents of terrorism in the country. These are not peculiar to Pakistan or the Muslims. Yet, the word ‘terrorism’ has been made more or less synonymous with Muslims which has no basis in fact. According to the list compiled by the FBI for the twenty-five-year period between 1980 and 2005, Muslims were involved in only six per cent of all the terrorist acts committed in the US as against the Jews in seven per cent and Latinos in forty-two per cent. http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2013-05-01/non-muslims-carried-out-more-90-all-terrorist-attacks-us-soil
 
The European Union’s Terrorism Situation and Trend Report for 2010 indicates that out of a total of 294 ‘failed, foiled or successfully executed’ terrorist attacks in Europe in 2009 only one was by Muslim extremists. As against two by the group opposed to the importation of wines from North Africa (article by Dan Gardener in The Ottawa Citizen of 5th January 2011).
 
Extremists are found in any religion be it Christianity, Judaism or Hinduism. The same is true for acts of terrorism but the two, that is, religious extremism and terrorism are not synonymous (The Battle for God, by Karen Armstrong). IRA in Northern Ireland, ETA in Spain, Shining Path Guerillas in South America, Naxallites, Nagas, ULFA, NDFB, the Khalistan Army to name a few in India, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, FLQ in Canada —- are not Muslims. (Dying to Win, by Robert Pape, University of Chicago).
 
The threat posed to the West by Muslim extremists may well have been exaggerated and even misplaced according to Sir Richard Dearlove who had been head of Britain’s MI6. He thinks the 9/11 attacks put a ‘distortion’ towards Islamic extremism in the public consciousness which has remained ever since. According to him we should be concentrating on Russia and China instead:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2684077/ISIS-threat-exaggerated-says-former-MI6-chief-Sir-Richard-Dearlove-thinks-pathetic-Britons-spreading-messages-internet-ignored.html#ixzz37GNeZ95N
There was no terrorism in Pakistan to speak of until General Musharraf, under pressure from the US, broke longstanding agreements with the tribesmen and sent troops into Waziristan to hunt down Taliban escaping from Afghanistan. The force used was excessive, inappropriate and unlawful. It is the basic cause of terrorism in Pakistan today (The Thistle and the Drone, by Akbar S. Ahmed).
Taking advantage of the situation, some other actors have jumped into the fray using Afghanistan as their base. India, for instance, has about one million people of Indian origin living in the United Kingdom and she needs only two consulates to look after their needs. On the other hand in Afghanistan, where there are only 3,600 or so Indian nationals, she now maintains seven consulates, most of these in towns along Pakistan’s border. They are widely believed to be involved in supporting terrorism inside Pakistan.  
Similarly, CIA memos reveal that in 2007 and 2008 Israeli agents posed as American spies and recruited men to work for the terrorist outfit Jundallah in Pakistan to carry out false flag operations against Iran (‘False Flag’, by Mark Perry, foreignpolicy.com, 13 January 2012).
 
US – Pakistan Relations
Coming to the US-Pakistan relations; political co-operation between the US and Pakistan has been primarily determined by the needs and policies of the US. This is not to say that Pakistan gained nothing from it; only that she has almost always done what she has been told to do, sometimes even at the expense of her own best interest.
In 1974, India decided to go nuclear leaving Pakistan with little option but to follow suit, much to the annoyance of the US. It remains a serious issue between the two countries. Most Pakistanis are convinced that removal of this capability will always remain the principal objective of the West in Pakistan. It is the primary reason for the trust deficit that exists between the two countries (See Douglas Jehl’s review of the book ‘Lawless World in theNY Times of 14th October 2005).
New World Order
The collapse of the Soviet Union left the US as the only super power in the world. Many a strategist scrambled to find a new role for her. One of the first among them was Zbigniew Brzezinski who in his book, The Grand Chessboard hypothesized that any power looking to dominate the world needed control over the Euro-Asian land mass.
This was followed shortly afterwards by Samuel Huntington’s ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. His thesis about ‘civilization’, meaning race and religion, forming the basis of future conflict in the world was not entirely convincing, nonetheless, it received inordinate amount of publicity.
To some it appeared as if the West was now in search of a new common threat to replace the one posed by the erstwhile Soviet Union. This would hopefully prevent the western nations from turning against each other, as has so often happened in history.
A 1992 US Department of Defence report under envisioned the United States as a colossus astride the world, imposing its will and keeping world peace through military and economic power. It drew too much criticism at the time and was withdrawn shortly afterwards. The issue was revived in 2000 under the name ‘Project for New American Century’.
President Bush apparently went along with its recommendations as reflected in his 2002 National Security Strategy Report. It envisaged permanent U.S. military and economic domination of every region on the globe, unfettered by international treaty or concern. Among other things the US also embraced the right to pre-emptive attacks against perceived enemies (see Gen. Wesley Clark interview with Amy Goodman on ‘Democracy Now’:http://www.democracynow.org/shows/2007/3/2).
 
Aftermath of 9/11
The attacks on 9/11 created understandable anger and calls for revenge and retribution for the atrocity. According to Bob Woodward in his book ‘Bush at War’, the President was intent on invading Iraq but the Secretary of State, Colin Powell suggested it should be Afghanistan because she was more ‘doable’. Ironically, there was neither any Iraqi nor Afghani among the alleged hijackers.
More bombs were dropped on Afghanistan than had been during the entire World War II. Significantly, on 31st January 2002, even before the bombs had stopped falling, the US Government announced it would support the construction of an oil pipeline across Afghanistan into Pakistan. A month later, Pakistan’s Musharraf signed an agreement with Hamid Karzai to build an oil and gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea basin to a port in Pakistan.
General Musharraf, who had previously staged a coup to overthrow an elected government, did everything he was told. It included provision of naval and air bases to NATO, opening land and air routes to Afghanistan, deploying 60,000 Pakistani troops along the border, apprehending and handing over to the US, without due process, any fighters escaping from Afghanistan; providing long-term logistic support and invaluable intelligence. In the first year alone, the US Central Command made a total of 2,160 demands and Pakistan acceded to each and every one of them. http://www.centcom.mil/Operations/Coalition/Coalition_pages/pakistan.html.
In the process Pakistan’s economy suffered major losses, to the tune of over 10 billion dollars in just the first year alone. This does not include the military expenditure and wear and tear of infrastructure, etc. The total loss that Pakistan’s economy has suffered until now exceeds 200 billion dollars. She has also lost more soldiers in this war than all the NATO countries put together.
We don’t hear any of this from the politicians or media in the West; the talk is only about the 20 billion dollars given in ‘aid’ over a period of twelve years which includes re-imbursements for the cost of logistic supplies provided by Pakistan to NATO troops in Afghanistan.
 
Drone Attacks
As the occupation continued, casualties among the western troops mounted which was not popular at home. There was also public weariness with the war. A new strategy was evolved using drones and night raids by Special Forces to minimize US casualties. It has had little effect on the final outcome of the war but the damage done to the US image, particularly in the affected countries, is immense (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/pain-continues-after-war-for-american-drone-pilot-a-872726.html#spRedirectedFrom=www).
The surgical nature and pinpoint accuracy claimed for these operations is a myth. So is the claim that it is only the terrorists who are targeted. In an article on Facebook entitled ‘Are We at War With Pakistan? Congressman and at one time presidential hopeful, Ron Paul writes, ‘former US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, when asked to define who can be targeted by the drones, said: ‘The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40’. (http://www.facebook.com/ronpaul/posts/10152361365996686 and
Colonel Kilcullen, who has served as adviser to General Petraeus in both Afghanistan and Iraq, estimates the kill ratio of innocent civilians and terrorists is more like 50 to 1 (‘Death From Above, Outrage Down BelowThe New York Times. 16th May 2009). The Peshawar High Court in its judgement on a case about the drones put it closer to zero per cent.
Imagine having up to six drones circling overhead twenty-four hours a day, not for a day or a week or a month but for years on end, making a constant buzzing sound that never ceases. Anyone listening to it knows that it can bring death and destruction to anyone at any time. It creates a deep-seated psychological fear —- a sort of unending emotional torture for all the inhabitants.
The lives of people in the area have changed completely. Children aged five to ten no longer go to school. Men are afraid to gather in groups of more than two or three. Weddings, which used to be such joyous affairs with music, dancing, and drumming, are now subdued events with only close family members present. Since funerals have also been targeted by the drones, they are now small gatherings as well.
It has not made the US any safer. The children of those killed in Waziristan are and will continue looking for Americans, wherever they can find them, to avenge the killing of their kith and kin for a very long time, indeed for generations to come. The tribal law, Pakhtoonwali, more or less makes it obligatory for the descendants of anyone killed to seek revenge from the offending party. It is known as badal or badla —- you kill one of mine, I will kill one of yours —- and there is no time limit on it (Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices inPakistan’, NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School) .
This is not all by any means. Eleven and twelve year old boys and men well in their seventies, including even a ninety-year-old, as well as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, were incarcerated and tortured at Bagram, Guantanamo and other places. There were no charges laid against them. To the outside world it gave the impression of hubris and contempt for the feelings of others and humanity itself.
On the night of 25–26 November 2010, US helicopter gunships attacked two army posts well inside Pakistan without any provocation. The attack lasted almost two hours and stopped only after all but two of her soldiers had been killed. To make matters worse, for a long time the US even refused to apologise for the atrocity.
Two months later a Blackwater mercenary working for the CIA shot and killed two Pakistanis on a busy road in Lahore and fled the scene as hundreds of people watched. President Obama even claimed diplomatic immunity for him which he did not have. There was uproar in Pakistan as was to be expected.
To add salt to the wounds, a bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives in support of the claim of some separatists in the province of Baluchistan to secede. These very people had been earlier declared as terrorists by the US and the European Union. It was perhaps the lowest point in relations between the two countries: http://baluchsarmachar.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/rep-rohrabacher-introduces-bill-recognizing-baluchistans-right-to-self-determination/
 
Not Doing Enough
Ever since she invaded Afghanistan the US has accused Pakistan of not doing enough to stop infiltration by Taliban, which is a euphemism for the Pashtoon or Pathans who are resisting the occupation.
It is next to impossible for Pakistan to stop the volunteers given the nature of the terrain, the familial connection between the people on either side of the border and their commitment to each other. There are also three and a half million Afghan refugees who have not gone back since the Soviet invasion. They are even more committed to the liberation of their country.
NATO had 100,000 plus troops who had done very little to secure the border on their side which makes any criticism of Pakistan disingenuous. The general feeling in Pakistan is that the US was trying to make her a scapegoat for what is now generally accepted as an impending debacle.
If the West has an interest in Central Asia it is a mistake to have an adversarial relationship with Pakistan. Realistically, the West can only have access to the Central Asian resources either through Iran or Pakistan. It needs both of these just in case one becomes unavailable for some reason. It is in the interest of the West to exercise caution in relations with both these nations.
 
Conclusion
Terrorism kills only a fraction of the people every year than are killed in accidents on the roads. Wars against terrorism, on the other hand have killed millions and climate change threatens to kill many times more. So why are we ignoring climate change by giving it benefit of the doubt which isn’t there and destroying entire societies and countries in the name of fighting terrorism —- worse still, accumulating trillions of dollars in debt in the process?
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that these wars have only created enemies where none need to exist. Dealing with the causes that led to terrorism in the first place, would have been much more effective and advisable. If only a part of the three trillion dollars that have been blown away so far on the ‘wars on terrorism’ had been used to better the lot of humanity, the world would be a far more peaceful and prosperous place for everyone to live in. As an example, only one per cent of it ($ 30 bn.) was enough to put an end to world hunger.
The United States is a great country, perhaps the greatest the world has ever seen. So much good was expected of her. What she has done especially since the turn of this century has not made the world a safer or better place. One can only hope that things will soon change and she will use her tremendous potential for the benefit of humanity and the future of mankind as a whole and not be seen to serve the interests of a selected few.
The writer is author of the books, ‘Pakistan: Roots, Perspective and Genesis’ and  ‘Muslims and the West: A Muslim Perspective’.  This article is an extract from the keynote address delivered by him at a conference on US – Pakistan relations held in the United States in July this year.

 

, , , ,

No Comments

The Day of Solidarity with Kashmiris

                                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although Kashmir issue has been internationalized, yet state terrorism by the Indian forces continue unabated on the innocent Kashmiris.

 

That is why, since 1990, the 5th of February is being celebrated by Pakistanis and Kashmiris as ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ to pay homage to Kahsmiri martyrs and to show shared aims with the freedom fighters who are struggling against the Indian subjugation, demanding their legitimate right of self-determination as recognized by the UN resolutions. This special day also reminds the endless sacrifices of Kashmiri people against Indian state terrorism.

 

On partition of India in 1947, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, in connivance with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Governor-General Lord Mountbatten, had decided to join India, quite contrary to the wishes of the majority of Kashmiris.

 

When a contention arose between India and Pakistan on the dispute of Kashmir in1948, India took the issue to the United Nations Security Council and offered to hold a plebiscite in the held Kashmir under UN supervision. On February 5, 1964, India backed out of its promise. Instead, in March 1965, the Indian Parliament passed a bill, declaring Kashmir a province of India.

 

While, passing through various phases, during and after the partition, the struggle of Kashmiris which has become an interaction between the Indian state terrorism led by the Indian security forces and war of liberation by the freedom fighters, keeps on going unabated.

 

Despite the employment of various forms of state terrorism by the Indian security forces like crackdowns, curfews, illegal detentions, massacre, targeted killings, sieges, burning the houses, torture, disappearances, rape, breaking the legs, molestation of Muslim women and killing of persons through fake encounter, war of liberation which intensified since 1989 continues by the Kashmiri freedom fighters.

 

A recent report on human rights violations by Indian Army and its paramilitary forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir disclosed that since 1989, there have been deaths of 93,274 innocent Kashmiris, 6,969 custodial killings, 117,345 arrests and 105,861 destructions of houses. Indian brutal security forces have orphaned over 107, 351 children, widowed 22,728 women and gang raped 9,920 women.

 

Besides Human Rights Watch, in its various reports, Amnesty International has also pointed out grave human rights violations in the Indian controlled Kashmir, indicating, “The Muslim majority population in the Kashmir Valley suffers from the repressive tactics of the security forces. Under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act, security forces personnel have extraordinary powers to shoot suspected persons.”

In this respect, European Union passed a resolution on May 11, 2011 about human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in the Indian held Kashmir.

 

 

 

 

 

It is of particular attention that in 2008, a rights group reported unmarked graves in 55 villages across the northern regions of Baramulla, Bandipore and Handwara. Then researchers and other groups reported about thousands of mass graves without markers. In this regard, in the last few years, rights groups discovered more than 3,000 unnamed graves in the various districts of Kashmir.

 

In this context, in August, 2011, Indian Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) officially acknowledged in its report that innocent civilians killed in the two-decade conflict have been buried in unmarked graves. The report indicated 2,156 unidentified bodies which were found in mass graves in various regions of the Indian-held Kashmir. Notably, foreign sources and human rights organizations have pointed out that unnamed graves include those innocent persons, killed by the Indian military and paramilitary troops in the fake encounters including those who were tortured to death by the Indian secret agency RAW.

 

In a report, China’s leading News Agency Xinhua has unearthed more gruesome details on world-stunning unmarked graves in Poonch of the Indian held Kashmir. The report revealed the statement of Sofi Aziz Joo, caretaker of a graveyard as saying, “Police and Army used to bring those bodies and direct me to bury them. The bodies were usually bullet-ridden, mutilated, faces disfigured and sometimes without limbs and heads.”

 

While, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and rights groups have pointed out that more than 10,000 people have disappeared, accusing government forces of staging fake gun battles to cover up killings. They also disclosed that suspected persons had been arrested and were murdered through arbitrary executions, and then buried in unmarked graves.

 

On the other side, by showing a sense of great optimism for peace of the region, Pakistan agreed with Indian old demand to strengthen the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in order to resolve the outstanding issues, especially main dispute of Kashmir.

 

During the visit of India’s External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to Pakistan on September 9, 2012, Islamabad and New Delhi also signed agreements of liberalised visa regime and a memorandum of understanding on cultural exchanges in addition to agreeing on new cross-Line of Control (LoC) Confidence Building Measures related to trade and travel. Although Pakistan was already importing vegetables from India through Wagah border, yet implementation of these new agreements has started. Besides, Islamabad also signed a number of trade agreements with New Delhi, which allowed India exports of mutltiple items across the Wagah border. It is also likely to grant India Most Favoured Nation status, which permits trade in almost everything.

 

But, as part of delaying tactics for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute, Indian rulers availed various crises so as to suspend the process of Pak-India talks. For example, in 2002, under the pretension of terrorist attack on the Indian parliament, New Delhi postponed the process of dialogue. Again, in 2008, India suspended the ‘composite dialogue’ under the pretext of Mumbai terror attacks which were in fact, arranged by its secret agency RAW in connivance with Indian home-grown terrorists.

 

India and Pakistan had resumed the new phase of talks in March, 2009 which were the first structured bilateral talks. But every time, prime ministers and foreign ministers of Pakistan and India have ended their meetings with issuance of positive notes, vowing for the solution of real issues, particularly the core dispute of Kashmir, but the same failed without producing tangible results due to Indian shrewd diplomacy.

 

 

 

 

 

Recently, Indian forces have repeatedly violated the LoC ceasefire agreement, and killed some soldiers of Pak Army. The purpose behind Indian double game is to give a blow even to the CBMs in order to avoid any settlement of Kashmir issue.

 

In fact, India is determined to keep its hold on Kashmir. It also wants to blackmail Pakistan by stopping the flow of rivers’ water towards Pakistan as major rivers of our country take origin from the occupied Kashmir. India is only fulfilling the formality through the new phase of talks as Indian rulers also want to show to the US-led western countries that they are willing to settle Kashmir dispute.

 

Notably, inactive approach of the so-called US-led civilized international community to this dispute has further encouraged New Delhi to continue its brutalities on the Kashmiri masses. Indian authorities are not willing to talk with Kashmiri people on political grounds as they have decided that only bullet is the right way of dealing with them.

 

However, despite the employment of various patterns of military terrorism in the Indian occupied Kashmir, the war of liberation by the Kashmiri people will continue untill they get their legitimate right of self-determination. If New Delhi could not suppress the movement in the past, it could also not do so in present and future.

 

Nonetheless, Pakistan will continue moral, diplomatic and political support of Kashmiri brethren. Hence, 5th of February is being celebrated as the ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ by Kashmiris, living both sides of the Line of Control. Besides, Pakistanis and Kashmiris across the world express solidarity with the freedom fighters of Kashmiris as a protest against Indian illegal occupation of Kashmir. It is due to the joint efforts of Kashmiri leaders and the Pakistan’s subsequent regimes that the Kashmir issue remains alive in wake of Indian delaying tactics. 

 

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power

 

Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com

 

, , , , ,

No Comments

USA refuses to give up drone employment

USA refuses to give up drone employment

 

Asif Haroon Raja

 

images-188The US has a long history of violating international law. Overthrowing elected governments, invading and occupying sovereign States, stoking and aiding insurgencies covertly, assassinating opponents, interning and torturing suspects in torture chambers, applying political, diplomatic, economic and military pressures are justified under the pretext of serving foreign policy objectives. Likewise drones are also validated on the plea of combating terrorism. Among the coercive techniques, drone is the latest instrument of persecution applied by USA under President Obama who has declared it as a choice weapon. Obama holds weekly meetings to decide which one to kill and which to spare from among the list put up to him by Pentagon and CIA. Once decision is taken, he signs the death warrants and CIA carries out the executions with joystick operated drones fitted with Hellfire missiles. In the calculation of Obama, all military-age males within the combat zone killed by drones are militants.

 

Major argument made by the proponents of drone war is that it helps in making the US troops stationed in Afghanistan safer. They say that drones are accurate and precise and hit militants only without putting the lives of American soldiers in jeopardy. They claim that dozens of high profile al-Qaeda militants were struck by drones. They also aver that common people in Waziristan do not dread drones but feel good to see militants dying. Opponents of drones challenge these contentions saying that strikes are neither accurate as claimed, nor the ISAF have become safe from Taliban attacks. They say that people of North Waziristan (NW) in particular which has borne the major brunt of drones have become nervous wrecks. They shoot down the US claims that drones are used in self-defence and are precise in targeting intended targets saying the wonky rationale lack logic and sagacity and hence unacceptable. They maintain that employment of drones is immoral and illegal, it endanger the lives of innocent civilians, violates sovereignty of independent country and also compromise international security as a whole.

 

FATA in Pakistan is the worst affected which has been hit by drones 330 times from 2004 to November 2013 incurring 2250 casualties. Majority of drone strikes took place in NW against Hafiz Gul Bahadar group, Haqqani network and late Waliur Rahman group followed by South Waziristan against late Maulvi Nazir group. Drones have not curbed but fuelled terrorism in Pakistan and have helped militant leaders to recruit larger number of fighters to fight Pak security forces, seen by them as mercenaries of USA. Above all, the militant groups like al-Qaeda and TTP have developed an inbuilt mechanism to quickly replace leaders killed in combat or by drones. Drones have also heightened anti-Americanism in the region.

 

The assassins carrying out extra judicial killings with the help of UAVs do not have any reliable means to distinguish between a militant and a civilian. Reliability of source providing intelligence remains in doubt. In most cases, reward money ($5000) lures and personal enmity propels the informers to get rich/settle old scores. This assumption draws strength from the prisoners detained in Guantanamo Bay, where 92% were innocent. After years of internment, 600 were released uncharged. There has not been a single strike in which civilians were not killed along with suspected militants. Deaths of civilians are covered up as collateral damage or on the plea that they were either sympathizers or protectors of militants. There have been number of incidents wherein rescuers rushing to evacuate the injured and the dead after the drone strike were struck by another drone, or people were hit when they were burying the dead. Counter Terrorism Adviser John Brennan sometimes back made an absurd claim that there has not been a single civilian casualty from drone hits.         

 

There is growing international movement against drone war and with every passing day, the US credibility in international community is eroding. UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter Terrorism Ben Emerson called for an independent investigation into each and every death that has resulted from drone strikes. Christophe Haynes submitted his study to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) raising concerns over the use of drones which he feels undermines international security and encourages more States and terrorist groups to acquire drones. He fears that drones may fall in wrong hands or may be hacked. His report was debated in UNGA on October 25, 2013, which called for respecting international laws. 17 out of 20 countries polled by PEW disapproved drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. 97% people in Pakistan, 63% in France, 59% in Germany, 89% in Egypt, 81% in Turkey consider drone strikes bad policy. 

 

While the drone war trudges on, opposition continues to balloon up. Amnesty International, International Committee of Red Cross, civil society groups and Human Rights Watch are all questioning the legal basis for targeted killings and urging Obama restraint on use of drone. Protest groups in USA and Europe continue to demonstrate against use of drone. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), activists of Imran Khan led PTI in protest against a drone strike on a seminary in Hangu on November 21, which is a town within settled area of the province, have blocked movement of NATO containers along Torkham route by staging sit-ins at five points in KP. The sit-ins started on November 23 and are still continuing. Imran is demanding stoppage of drone attacks which he strongly feels are impeding peace talks with TTP. His party joined by his coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami is staging protests singly and is not supported by the federal government or any other party. The second supply route via Chaman is open and operational.

 

A case against CIA director John Brenan and station chief Craig Osth in Islamabad has been registered by Hangu police on charges of waging war against Pakistan and  killing innocent civilians. Imran nudged the government to order PAF to hit US drones. Indian Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel during his visit to Islamabad has cautioned that military aid to Pakistan will discontinue in case the supply route is not opened and reiterated the US stance that drone strikes would continue. No assurance has so far been given that the US has any intention of halting drone attacks in the near future. It is indeed surprising that the US ceded ground in Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, but gives no room to Pakistan on the issue of drones.    

 

Imran Khan and his party have taken a bold step to defy US unbridled belligerence. However, the time chosen to prolong blockade of supply route in my view is ill-timed. Forced by circumstances, the ISAF has now changed its posture from offensive to retrograde. Arms and ammunition are no more being pumped into Afghanistan to feed the ongoing war but military stores are being taken out of Afghanistan. While the troops will be flown out, defence equipment of 47 countries worth $7 billion lifted in 24000 containers and 20,000 vehicles is required to be transported by road in next 12 months. Undoubtedly, the two routes of Pakistan are the shortest and cheapest and hence preferred over longer and highly expensive northern network. Having nourished NATO’s war effort for 12 years, it will be folly to stop the outflow. Containers moving into Afghanistan mostly contain food and non-war items.

 

It must not be forgotten that Pakistan is bound by UNSC Resolution 1386 to provide logistic supply to ISAF in Afghanistan. US-Iran thaw has provided another avenue to US thereby considerably reducing dependence on Pakistan. Moreover, closure of Torkham route has deprived the truckers carrying NATO containers legitimate business, while the cash strapped government loses one million dollar daily. A loss of $20 million has already been incurred. Lastly, while analyzing pros and cons, it should be borne in mind that seven months closure of supply routes in the aftermath of Salala incident had brought no change in the attitude of USA. It managed to bear the extra cost. At this delicate stage when nothing is going in favor of Pakistan and Iran too has come in the loop of USA, prudence demands that conciliation rather than confrontation will fetch better results. At the same time, efforts on the diplomatic front should be doubled and rising anti-drone sentiments all over the world exploited.   

 

The writer is a retired Brig, a defence analyst and columnist. asifharoonraja@gmail.com

 

,

No Comments


Skip to toolbar