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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pakistan-Aghanistan: Syed Saleem Shazad, Shuja Nawaz, David Goldman [long excerpts]

* In preparation for the assault, the army made ceasefire deals with several influential Taliban warlords who run large networks against coalition troops in Afghanistan. They include Mullah Nazir, the chief of the Taliban in Wana, South Waziristan, who operates the largest Taliban network in the Afghan province of Paktika. Mullah Nazir is neutral in this Pakistani conflict and agreed to allow passage to the army to enter Mehsud territory. In North Waziristan, two top Taliban commanders, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Moulvi Sadiq Noor, also agreed to remain neutral. They are members of the Shura of the Mujahideen and a main component of the Taliban's insurgency in the Afghan province of Khost.

* However, Hakimullah Mehsud of the TTP, according to Asia Times Online contacts, has apparently adopted a strategy that will not expend too many resources on protecting the Mehsud area. Instead, he aims to spread chaos by attacking security personnel in the cities. Hakimullah was the architect of successful attacks on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's supply lines in the Khyber Agency, which began in 2007.

* The same contacts say that when thousands of people left South Waziristan last week under the military's directives, a majority of the militants melted away to the Shawal region, situated at the crossroads of South Waziristan, Afghanistan and North Waziristan, besides going to Pakistani cities.

* A transcript of the militants' calls, intercepted by the security forces and read by Asia Times Online, shows that the militants had noticed a damaged wall at General Headquarters Rawalpindi. They therefore engaged security personnel at the main gate, while at the same time sending about 10 men through the breach in the wall. These militants were given support by insiders.
A new battle begins in Pakistan


* Meanwhile the chart of death and destruction has been rising. This year, the number of total annual fatalities reached 8,375, up from 189 in 2003, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal that tracks such figures from public records. Some 22,110 people were killed over the same period, including at least 2,637 security personnel, 7,004 civilians and 5,960 terrorists or insurgents. The rise of the Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan, a loose umbrella group of tribal factions based near the Afghan border, and its ties with regional groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and in the settled areas of Pakistan with the Punjabi militant groups, once trained by Pakistani intelligence to operate against India in Kashmir, have added a new measure of danger to the situation. Recently, these groups have begun targeting the army, culminating in the bold attack on army headquarters in Rawalpindi earlier this month.

* And it is also likely that while the army will be able to clear centers of militancy, as it did in Swat earlier this year, it will not be equipped to hold the territory, nor to build the local economy.

*That is where the civilians need to step in. To date, they have been largely absent. At its heart, the militants are feeding off discontent with lack of governance and economic opportunities.

* Longer term, if peace breaks out between India and Pakistan, the dividends will be widespread in both economies. Greater trade and a greater exchange of travelers will likely reduce hostility and shift the emphasis from military spending to civilian development and growth. That is the real answer to the growing violence in the region. But first, Islamabad has to take the reins.

The Battle for Pakistan -Shuja Nawaz

* The region is full of geopolitical mines. To be name some of them:
-India can't let the fundamentalist side of the Pakistani military take power without responding.
-Iran can't let Pakistan's Sunnis crush the 20% Shi'ite minority.
-Israel can't allow for the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons.
-Saudi Arabia can't let Iran dominate Iraq.
-Turkey can't let Iraq's Kurds form an independent state.
-China can't let Turkey agitate among the 100 million Muslim ethnic Turks within its borders.
Without America to mediate, scold and restrain, each of the small powers in the region has no choice but to test its strength against the others. That is why the major players in the region resemble a troupe of manic Morris dancers in a minefield.

* A complex negotiation involving Russia and Israel is underway. Russia has the capacity to suspend or cancel its promised shipments of S-300 missiles to Iran, or to provide Israel with means to make the system ineffective. Russian nuclear scientists, meanwhile, reportedly are assisting Tehran's weapons program, and the Russian government has the capacity to neutralize this threat as well. The question is: what does Russia want from Israel in return for refraining from arming Iran?

* No one can control the failed states and soon-to-be-failed states of the region; one can only contain them.

SPENGLER : When the cat's away,the mice kill each other


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