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Posts Tagged Karzai & India Loser

Robert Baer-Ex-CIA Officer : What Does Pakistan Really Want in Afghanistan?

images-196What does Pakistan really want in Afghanistan? That question has become all the more urgent since Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused Pakistan of being indirectly responsible for last week’s attack on our embassy in Kabul. Reports of a second possible attack, on Sunday, on the building alleged to house the local CIA station will, no doubt, fuel further speculation. Assessing Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan through the prism of honesty and realpolitik rather than wishful thinking may be the only way we’re going to get out of this messy war. 


For a start, we need to understand that Pakistan intends to bring down the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, even if that means taking on its sometime U.S. ally. Pakistan hates Karzai out of a conviction that he has made common cause with Pakistan’s strategic nemesis, India, and a suspicion that the Afghan leader intends to harm Pakistan’s strategic interests in other ways. And, of course, the hatred is mutual. Rightly or wrongly, Karzai believes that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) assassinated his father, and would do the same to him given half a chance. (Read what Pakistan really envisions as an endgame for Afghanistan.)


A second misunderstanding we need to dispense with is that the ISI is somehow a rogue organization outside of Pakistan’s chain of command and is pursuing a pro-Taliban agenda all its own. The Pakistani army can remove the ISI director, General Ahmad Shuja Pasha – or any other officer of the organization – at a moment’s notice. So, if the ISI did indeed sponsor an attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul, such a step should be assumed to have been taken with the consent of the power that be in Pakistan, i.e. the military establishment. The idea that to make our Pakistan problem go away, the ISI needs to be “cleaned up” is naive. The Pakistani actions that make life difficult for the U.S. in Afghanistan are driven by a clear-sighted strategic agenda. 


As for the Pakistani proxy accused of carrying out the embassy attack, the Haqqani network, we need to understand why Pakistan won’t give it up or act against it as the U.S. demands. With up to 15,000 fighters and effective control of large parts of eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s North Waziristan, the Haqqanis are an indispensible party to a peace settlement in Afghanistan – and a vehicle for securing Pakistan’s interests in that country after the U.S. withdraws. To sever relations with the Haqqanis now would mean Pakistan giving up a large degree of influence in Afghanistan after the war is over. 


The U.S. has for years demanded that Pakistan mount a sweeping military offensive in North Waziristan to destroy the Haqqanis, but even if they were so inclined, the fact is that the Pakistani military has only ever been able to control the main roads in North Waziristan. The Pakistani army is incapable of occupying and holding this territory, no matter how much money we offer or how dire the threats we make. (See whether Pakistan really wants a stable Afghanistan.)


At the core of the problem stands a simple proposition: Pakistan doesn’t trust us with Afghanistan – and from Islamabad’s perspective, not without cause. We took a strategic decision to invade a country central to their national-security doctrine without seriously consulting them, preferring to think in terms of an Afghanistan of our dreams. Nor did we take into account their strategic interests and the proxies through which they have pursued them. The Soviet Union made the same mistake when it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. 


Having failed to prevail a decade later, we now have two choices, neither of them particularly attractive to Washington. We can attempt to destroy the Haqqani base in North Waziristan by invading Pakistan. But to do that effectively would require more troops than we currently have in Afghanistan. Doing so would obviously destroy whatever relations we still have with Pakistan, with profoundly dangerous consequences in Afghanistan and far beyond. 


Alternatively, we could hash out a settlement with Pakistan, which would inevitably mean accepting the Haqqanis and easing out Karzai in any political settlement to the conflict. Such a deal would also potentially bring in Afghanistan’s other neighbor with real strategic interests in the country – Iran. Iran can be unpredictable, but it’s by no means certain it would accept true Pakistani-American collusion in Afghanistan. In the mid-’90s, Iran was all but at war with the Taliban, and if Iran isn’t consulted on a settlement, it could play the spoiler. 


Accepting Pakistan’s postconflict agenda and backing off on the Haqqanis at Karzai’s expense is too bitter a pill for Washington to swallow in an election year, so we’ll muddle through for another year. But when the U.S. finally leaves, don’t be surprised to see the Haqqanis in Kabul.


Robert Baer, a former Middle East CIA field officer, is TIME.com‘s intelligence columnist and the author of See No Evil and The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower.

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INDIAN PERSPECTIVE: US-Taliban peace talks: Pakistan’s political fortunes set to revive, India concerned



images-196NEW DELHI: A prospective Afghan political deal crafted by Kerry and Kayani threatens to sink Karzai. As the Taliban set up an office in Doha to start peace talks with the US dressed up in their old flag and named the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan, in one fell swoop, the gesture has marginalized images-199Hamid Karzai, presaged a future Taliban role in the Afghan government and revived Pakistan’s political fortunes with the US.

The new situation has profoundly negative implications for India’s security, particularly if the Haqqani network is added to the talks as Pakistan desires. India has promised to take up the issue with US secretary of state John Kerryduring the strategic dialogue to be held here next week. In Baghdad, foreign minister Salman Khurshid said, “We have from time to time reminded all stakeholders about the red lines that was drawn by the world community and certainly by the participants should not be touched, should not be erased and should not be violated.” The “red lines” included a renunciation of Taliban’s links with al Qaida and an acceptance of the Afghan constitution. However, its been a couple of years that the US has abandoned all preconditions for talks with the Taliban.

India is one of the largest donors to Afghanistan’s stabilization, but India has a minimal role in the political chess-game currently under way, which will minimize India’s security concerns in the larger transition. Officials in Kabul said, despite repeated assurances to Karzai by the US, the Taliban went ahead to set themselves up almost as a government in exile. Their initial statement said, as an afterthought, that they could even talk to “Afghans”, but not the government. With the Taliban also opening talks with Iran as well as with the former Northern Alliance, the US, helped by Pakistan, could be preparing the way to bring the Taliban back into government in Kabul, a decade after they were removed from power by the US invasion.

For the present, the Taliban in Doha, with the blessings of the US and Qatar, is more than an Afghan insurgent group. Just by the very fact that they are not in Afghanistan, its very easy for them to scale up their international profile to position themselves as a challenger or alternative Afghan government. Its clear the Taliban are sitting at the table because Pakistan has played a key role in getting them there. While Mullah Omar is believed to have agreed to the talks, the fact is that all the Taliban leaders in Doha have a strong Pakistan connection, with their families all living in Pakistan.

According to Pakistani media reports, the deal came about largely because of a personal relationship between Kerry and Kayani. Quoting unnamed Pakistan military officials, a report in Pakistan’s Express Tribune said, “The hardliners among the Taliban ranks did not want to give any space to US forces. They had realised that by stalemating international forces they had actually won militarily. It was Pakistan’s turn to use its influence even though everyone in Washington had deep doubts about the Taliban showing flexibility. Our pitch to the Taliban was that by becoming part of the dialogue process they could gain international sanction, end conflict peacefully and achieve their goals of foreign forces exiting their country much more swiftly than through perpetual conflict.”

Karzai angrily suspended security talks with the US, as Washington scrambled to save the Doha talks by getting the Taliban to take down the offending banner. No peace talks started between the US and Taliban on Thursday, and a visit by the Afghan High Peace Council to Qatar on Friday too was cancelled. In Kabul, Karzai called in envoys from Russia and China and India to brief them on his position, even as Kerry tried to pacify him about the talks.

While the US takes some time to pacify Karzai, sources said the first deals the US would be looking for includes the release of a US soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, in Taliban custody. On Thursday, Taliban spokesmen said he could be released in return for five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. The US has not yet agreed to that though there may be some offer of keeping the prisoners in Bagram rather than Cuba.

Second, the US will seek safe passage from the Taliban for their equipment and weapons as they prepare to leave Afghanistan. The Taliban may have entered peace talks but only on Wednesdaythey carried out an attack for which they even claimed responsibility. It’s clear the forthcoming negotiations will be arduous, where the Taliban have the advantage of waiting for their demands to be met, while the US is heading for the exits.



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