Tag Archive: Afghanistan


It was USSR which had humiliated defeat at the hands of Afghan Mujahideen leading to its break-up. These Afghans were aided and supported by Pakistan and the US. In effect, USSR was fighting USA in Afghanistan. But as they say there is no permanent enemies and no permanent friends in international relations. The validity of this statement has been proved by Russia, the successor of the former USSR. Russia has come to rescue the US in its predicament of having a risky supply route to its forces in Afghanistan. According to The Moscow Times, Russia’s State Duma ratified an agreement Friday to allow the United States to ferry troops and supplies across Russian territory for military operations in Afghanistan.

The Duma voted 347-95 in favor of the 2009 deal, which has already been implemented pending ratification. Communists, who opposed the ratification, denounced the agreement with the United States as a “unilateral concession.”

The U.S.-Russian transit agreement was drawn up during a trip by U.S. President Barack Obama to Moscow in 2009 in an effort to “reset” relations that had been damaged by a 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. Currently, about 80 percent of NATO’s supplies cross through Pakistan. But NATO has been trying to reduce its dependence on convoy routes through Pakistan, where they are prey to Islamist militant attacks. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Duma on Friday that there have been 780 U.S. flights over Russia — carrying 115,000 U.S. troops and more than 19,000 metric tons of cargo to and from Afghanistan — since September 2009.

Ryabkov said the air route has accounted for 16 percent of all U.S. military shipments to and from the country. He said the agreement has helped improve ties with the United States and NATO and protects Russia’s interests in other areas. Moscow said last year that the deal could also be expanded to allow vehicles in need of repair and refurbishment to be sent back to NATO countries. But the transit deal stops short of opening the Russian route for weapons for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, where Moscow fought a disastrous 1979-89 war that killed 15,000 Soviet troops. Russia has struck similar deals with Germany, France and Spain and has touted them as a key contribution to international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Imagine Madhuri Dixit and Shahrukh Khan making an appearance in one of the Kabul theatres or the Tora Bora Mountains preaching enlightenment, moderation, non-violence and tolerance and the Taliban suddenly start feeling their hearts melt for American soldiers and Indian road contractors.  Don’t throw it away or laugh it off as a weird thought but it did exist at one point in time. The USA seems to have been under the impression that Bollywood heart throbs are so much worshipped in Afghanistan that their presence could make a lot of difference.   US diplomats suggested stars of India’s film industry could be sent to Afghanistan to help stabilize the troubled country, according to a leaked cable published Friday. The Express Tribune has reported that the confidential US document from March 2007, released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, said that high-profile Bollywood actors could play a key role in India’s “soft power” assistance in Afghanistan.

“We understand Bollywood movies are wildly popular in Afghanistan, so willing Indian celebrities could be asked to travel to Afghanistan to help bring attention to social issues there,” it said.

Bollywood, based in the western city of Mumbai, is a two-billion-dollar industry which has become increasingly popular abroad, not just among the Indian Diaspora but in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Gulf states. In Afghanistan, Bollywood films are regularly shown on television, though with the bare midriffs and plunging necklines of its sari-wearing actresses pixellated for a largely conservative Muslim audience. Movie soundtracks are also popular.

The suggestion, which did not come to fruition, was part of a role envisaged for India in what US diplomats called “people-to-people” assistance. Others included “symbolic” exchange programs in areas like sports or business. US diplomats in New Delhi described India as Afghanistan’s “natural ally” and advocated using its vast wealth of well-trained, and cheaper, expertise to build capacity in areas including the civil service and electoral bodies.

But it warned that a key obstacle to increasing Indian influence would be Pakistan, which fears being encircled by its larger, powerful neighbor and traditional rival. India has committed $1.3 billion to Afghanistan since the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001. Thousands of Indians are building roads, sanitation projects and power lines, while India is also building the new Afghan parliament. But India’s involvement has come at a cost, with a number of deadly attacks on its interests in the country, including at its embassy in Kabul.

Also read:

WikiLeaks: India systematically torturing civilians in Kashmir (Telegraph)

WikiLeaks cables: US diplomats suggested Bollywood stars should tour Afghanistan (Guardian)

Those who brought you to the corridors of power are hungry and sick and shelter-less. The statistics released by the World Food Program is chilling and shocking. It says that many million “vote” are in such a situation that it can put anyone to shame. You are going to need them in the near future but they need you now. Can you act quickly enough to help them at least with the intention to grab their votes two years from now, if you can still enjoy your dinner? This should also shock Angelina Jolie who could not believe her eyes when she saw your dinner table. No one with a heart and right mind can reconcile to the situation of the voters and the voted.

The World Food Program has listed the following 8 hunger facts about Pakistan:

a)      The Pakistan floods this summer impacted the lives and livelihoods of some 20 million people, around 10 million of whom required emergency food assistance.

b)     Pakistan suffered from widespread hunger even before the monsoon floods, with an estimated 82.6 million people – a little less than half the population – estimated to be food insecure.

c)      An estimated 36 percent of Pakistanis live below the poverty line and almost half are illiterate. Poorer households typically spend over 60 percent of their income on food.

d)     50 percent of all Pakistanis have little or no access to clean toilets and drinking water, a condition that renders them vulnerable to infectious diseases.

e)      The biggest killers of children under five in Pakistan are diarrhea and acute respiratory infections. Undernourishment is an underlying cause in 38 percent of those cases.

f)       Conflict along Pakistan’s northwestern border with Afghanistan has forced millions of people to flee their homes. Since 2008, WFP has provided over 2.6 million of them with food assistance.

g)     Volatile food prices over the past seven years have pushed the number of people who depend on food assistance in Pakistan from 38 percent of the population in 2003 to 49 percent in 2009.

h)     Wheat is Pakistan’s main staple crop and most important source of calories. As a result of the flooding, which submerged around 16 percent of all arable land in Pakistan, the upcoming wheat harvest is expected to be around 15 percent smaller than usual.

The Yankees are coming…..

The US seems to be working overtime to seek closer ties with Pakistan. In order to prove that it has a love affair with Pakistan which goes far beyond US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, it has offered $2 billion military aid to Pakistan staggered over a period of five years from 2012 which shows its commitment for a long-haul relationship as against its previous conduct of using and abandoning Pakistan as and when needed. The military aid will flow after Congressional assent but USA is now demanding to further strengthen the presence of its CIA in Pakistan. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the U.S. is pushing to expand a secret CIA effort to help Pakistan target militants in their havens near the Afghan border, according to senior officials, as the White House seeks new ways to prod Islamabad into more aggressive action against groups allied with al Qaeda.

The push comes as relations between Washington and Islamabad have soured over U.S. impatience with the slow pace of Pakistani strikes against militants who routinely attack U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama has said he will begin to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in July, increasing the urgency to show progress in the nine-year war against the Taliban. The U.S. asked Pakistan in recent weeks to allow additional Central Intelligence Agency officers and special operations military trainers to enter the country as part of Washington’s efforts to intensify pressure on militants.

The requests have so far been rebuffed by Islamabad, which remains extremely wary of allowing a larger U.S. ground presence in Pakistan, illustrating the precarious nature of relations between Washington and its wartime ally. The number of CIA personnel in Pakistan has grown substantially in recent years. The exact number is highly classified. The push for more forces reflects, in part, the increased need for intelligence to support the CIA drone program that has killed hundreds of militants with missile strikes. The additional officers could help Pakistani forces reach targets drones can’t.

Simultaneously, Pakistani PM made a startling revelation on Friday saying that drone attacks were never approved by Pakistan as President Musharraf only approved drone surveillance. He implied or stopped short of saying that these attacks had the tacit approval of his own government.

According to The Wall Street Journal, there are currently about 900 U.S. military personnel in Pakistan, 600 of which are providing flood relief and 150 of which are assigned to the training mission. The Obama administration has been ramping up pressure on Islamabad in recent weeks to attack militants after months of publicly praising Pakistani efforts. The CIA has intensified drone strikes in Pakistan, and the military in Afghanistan has carried out cross-border helicopter raids, underlining U.S. doubts Islamabad can be relied upon to be more aggressive. Officials have even said they were going to stop asking for Pakistani help with the U.S.’s most difficult adversary in the region, the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network, because it was unproductive.

When senior Pakistani officials visited Washington this week, Obama administration officials signaled they are willing to push for a long-term military aid package. But they also have made clear to Pakistani officials they expect tangible results, and they threatened that current cash payments to Pakistan could be reduced if things don’t improve in tribal areas such as North Waziristan.

The current efforts to expand CIA presence are meant to expand intelligence collection and facilitate more aggressive Pakistani-led actions on the ground. Some U.S. officials, however, remain hopeful that Islamabad will allow a greater covert presence that could include CIA paramilitary forces.

U.S. military forces on the ground remain a red line for Islamabad because if the Pakistan public became aware of U.S. military forces conducting combat operations on Pakistani territory, it would wipe out popular support for fighting the militants in the tribal areas. Whether covert CIA forces would cross that line however, remains an open question.

 

Change of guards in Afghanistan has finally taken place. The reason could be insubordination but the decision to fire the General will yield multiple benefits, including savings of taxpayers money being spent on endless campaign. It seems that the war against terror has finally started taking its toll, now in economic terms. Whatever the reasons of change of command in Afghanistan, the new commander is known for his skills to fight terror as well as he fights costs. Christian Science Monitor, in a recent issue, says that as an officer astute about politics, General Petraeus knows the new politics of austerity in Washington  because Congress is in little mood to add to the debt. Afghanistan now costs more than Iraq, or some $70 billion this year, even as a troop surge goes on.

On the other hand, Great Britain, a junior partner in the War has started feeling the heat and has passed on the burden on its economy to masses by cutting the benefits or increasing the taxes. Like the rulers in the Fatherland, the British rulers have passed the buck on to their predecessors for mounting burden of debt. “Today we take decisive action to deal with the debts we inherited and confront the greatest economic risk facing our country.” This is how Chancellor Osborne justified his budget.

Britain’s budget cuts exemplify a Europewide return of fiscal conservatism less than two years after Keynesian intervention (in the form of stimulus programs) was the emergency tonic for the 2008 financial crisis. From Spain to Hungary, millions of government workers are being fired or told to postpone retirement. Projects are being junked in a bid to tame soaring deficits and win approval from investors.

“There is only so much borrowing that governments can do before the markets will say: ‘no more, we can lend you no more money,’ ” says Richard Wellings, an economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a right-of-center British think tank that wants deep cuts.

Dr. Wellings argues that European governments have no choice but to trim spending, since fears of sovereign defaults already have investors backing away from government debt.

Even Europe’s economic powerhouse, Germany, has unveiled a fiscal austerity program designed to save nearly $100 billion by 2014 and more than halve this year’s projected deficit of 5 percent of GDP.

On the USA front, Mr. Obama warns he has a budget limit for Afghanistan. “We simply cannot afford to ignore the price of these wars,” he says. He seeks a balance between domestic priorities, especially the economy, and the threat of violence from Al Qaeda or its affiliates in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.

The president also promises to address the war costs “openly and honestly.” A strategy review is planned for December with a drawdown of forces set to begin mid-2010 – depending on local conditions, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates puts it. “We are in this thing to win,” he says.

Defining victory, however, remains illusive and divisive among Obama’s security team, one reason for McChrystal’s ill-spoken words to a reporter. Rather than wait until December, Obama should use this change of command to give a clear explanation of the current trade-offs between the war’s costs and the evolving security threats.

Is he still set on denying a haven for Al Qaeda, as promised – even if, for instance, the coming offensive in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar fails and drags the war into 2012 and beyond?

The president dislikes an open-ended commitment to the war. And he uses the threat of withdrawal to pressure Kabul to quickly boost its forces and the economy. But squaring his goal of securing that country enough to prevent another 9/11 with the budget pressures back home will require Obama to keep a running dialogue with the American people. Since last year, they have largely found the war not worth fighting.

It takes more than one good general to win a war. The home front is a battleground, too.