Diplomatic bargaining at the edge — I —Prof. Ijaz Khan

Prof. Ijaz Khan is an academic and active commentator at various discussion forums, mailing groups and social networks. He is associated with Peshawar University and is Chairman, Department of International Relations.  He annotates on US Af-Pak policy, Pakistan Afghan policy and its implications on the region and the people living in it. Here’s first part of his take on the current row of overheated bargaining between US and Pakistan and Pakistan wishlist in post US withdrawal scenario in Afghanistan.(ali arqam)

The conflict in the Af-Pak region has entered a new phase, which may be termed the pre-2014 phase. This phase is currently witnessing a serious row between the US and Pakistan, supposedly allies in the ‘war against terrorism’. All parties want to influence the outcome in 2014 so that the post-2014 situation best meets its perceived interests. To influence that outcome Pakistan and the US are pursuing policies that appear to be at odds. Both also consider the behaviour of the other to be vital for achievement of its goal. So they are using various means to influence each other’s behaviour. The current row between the two allies can be explained as an overheated diplomatic bargaining.

President Obama announced disengagement from active combat in Afghanistan by 2014, thus the withdrawal of US combat troops from Afghanistan. This was announced along with a plan to enable the US to do so after succeeding in Afghanistan and not losing the war there. The plan was based on the US’s increased action at different levels: one was an increased military action through increased military presence, the so-called ‘surge policy’, and two, raising of the Afghan Army and a viable governance system. The strategy also includes peeling away as much of the Taliban as possible through negotiations. The purpose is to strengthen the Afghan government in relation to the Taliban resistance. The US does not intend to abandon Afghanistan, as it does not want a repeat of the 1990s when Afghanistan became a safe haven for terrorists from all over the world, especially Al-Qaeda.

Given adjustments for language, style and rhetoric, Pakistan’s Afghan policy has continuously been guided by two considerations: security threat perceptions from India and the question of the Durand Line. It was hosting most of the mujahideen leaders of the 1980s since the early 1970s or becoming a front-line state in the 1980s against Soviet intervention in Afghanistan or the half-cooked ideas of ‘strategic depth’ in the 1990s leading to the rise of the Taliban. Pakistan appeared to have taken a U-turn after 9/11. However, that perception soon proved wrong by what Ahmad Rashid called a ‘double U-turn’. Pakistan has been playing the role of a broker between the US and the Taliban even before 9/11. After 9/11, Pakistan — while announcing support for the US — tried its best to salvage whatever was left of its Afghan policy that banked on a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Pakistan tried to bridge the gap between the Taliban and the US, with the aim of saving the Taliban from any military action against them. It continued its diplomatic relations with their government in Kabul to the very end. However, when the US attacked and dislodged the Taliban government, Pakistan adjusted its policy accordingly. Since then its policy has aimed to get a government in Kabul in which it will have a strong say and Indian influence will be minimum. For that end, Pakistan has been acting against the Taliban with a policy that will limit them but not eliminate them. Pakistan also wishes to see a complete withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan, however only after meeting Pakistan’s concerns. Pakistan now wants to limit Afghanistan’s military capability as well, so a recent Pakistan foreign policy elite study proposed limiting of the Afghan Army.

Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban have been quite complex. It is like you construct a canal to direct the flow of water over whose flow you do not have much control. You stop the Taliban from acting where you do not want them to and shut your eyes when they act where you want them to. Whether Pakistan controls some of them and to what extent is debatable, however, it finds their defeat unless Pakistan’s concerns are met as not desirable. Its actions or inaction against them must be understood in this background. It is this policy that angers and frustrates the US.

The US is also facing a dilemma. It is aware of Pakistan’s position and its role. It also knows how vital that role is for the current phase of the Afghan imbroglio. Admiral (retd) Mullen’s as well as other statements, including those from the White House itself, clearly establish that the US has not been able to make Pakistan act the way it wants to with a policy that can largely be described as that of carrots and the threat of use of sticks.

With 2014 approaching fast, the US’s choices are getting limited. The American leadership seems to be getting convinced that carrots are not convincing enough and neither are the threats. Pakistani policy makers know that the US will bend over backwards as much as possible to avoid materialising of the threats — to avoid the use of sticks. They bank on US calculations that it must not entangle itself in a country bigger than both Afghanistan and Iraq put together. This does not mean that Pakistan is a match for the US militarily. Even the Pakistani establishment knows that. This means the US would need much more troops afterwards and still much more resources. Pakistan cannot be just hit, destroyed and left for the extremists to take over. If the US ever decides to hit decisively against Pakistan then it has to commit for a much longer, bigger and direct commitment than it can be worth in terms of interests — security or economic, both immediate or strategic. This is what emboldens Pakistan and pushes it to bargain hard.

Read the 2nd part here..

Courtesy: Dailytimes


Amrullah Saleh’s interview on his resignation

I wonder how many people in the US know (or care) what a huge setback this is for the war in Afghanistan. Certainly at least as significant as Karzai’s rigging of the elections which caused so much international handwringing. but the resignation of Saleh and Atmar has taken place with hardly any publicity, possibly because the US doesn’t really mind and because Saleh – with his outspoken views against the ISI – would almost certainly have had to have been moved out of the way for any US attempt at reconciliation with the Taliban brokered by the ISI.


Reuters) – The former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence service quit after seeing himself as an obstacle to President Hamid Karzai’s plan to reach out to insurgents for talks, he said on Monday, a day after his resignation.

Amrullah Saleh — for six years a key figure in the anti-Taliban fight as head of the National Directorate for Security — said Karzai had already lost faith in his security forces before an attack on a peace conference last week.

Saleh resigned on Monday along with Hanif Atmar, who controlled the police as interior minister. Karzai’s office said the two top security officials had quit because of lapses that led to an insurgent attack on last week’s peace meeting.

In an interview at his home in the Afghan capital, Saleh described plans to negotiate with insurgents as a “disgrace”, and said one of the main reasons he had quit was because Karzai had ordered a review of Taliban prisoners in detention.
Continue reading

Some Imran Khan quotes about Shariah in Pakistan

  • From Kal Tak with Javed Chaudhry 21/1/2009
    [This is his answer to the first question in which he talks about shariah in general terms, and not specific to Swat (although I suppose it’s open to interpretation)]

    IK: dekhiyay, sharamnaak baat yeh hai keh hum kehtay hain… hum musalman hain aur shariat say dar jaatay hain. Shariat kya hai? Shariat nabi (SAW) ka rasta hai. Yeh aap ki… agar aap musalman hain tau aap shariat pay chalna chahtay hain.

    humain khauf hai shariat ka naam laytay huay dartay hain. yeh jo badkismatay hai kay jo mulk kay parhay likhay laug hain, woh kamaskam batayain tau sahi keh shariat kya hai. main aap ko batata hoon keh meri nazar main shariat kya hai. Shariat khilafat-e-rashidun hai. Uss ki kya bunyaad thi? Adal aur insaaf; aur falahi rryasaat, aur aik khuddar ryaasat jo kisi aur power kay saamnay na jhukay. yeh shariat nizam ki bunyaad hai. hum kyun dartay hain shariat ka naam laytay huay?

  • Jawab Deh with Iftikhar Ahmed, 1/2/2009 (great interview btw)[this had nothing to do with Swat .. 23:00 into the video]

    Iftikhar Ahmed: aap shariat kay haami hain?

    IK: main bilkul samajhta hoon kay shariath honi chahiyay. Aur shariat jo mainay study ki hay woh khilafat-e-rashidun main jo shari nizam hai woh jo aap nai shuru main tehrik e insaaf ka manshoor bataya tha: khuddari, insaniyat, aur insaaf. yeh teen. yeh shariat ki yeh bunyaad hai

    Iftikhar Ahmed: is mulk main kis fiqah ki shariat par amal kiya jayay ga?

    IK: main to nahin jaanta, main to apni ki [shariah] define kar raha hoon. main to yeh keh raha hoon jo main … study kiya hai, aik islami ma’ashray main insaniyat honi chahiyay aik falahi ryaasat honi chahiyay, udhar adal aur insaaf hona chahiyay.

    after this there is a great section in which he rationalizes suicide
    bombing, etc.

  • Meray mutabiq with Shahid Masood 2/22/2009

    IK: …aik hamari so called liberal class hai, woh dar gayi hai keh shariat aagayi hai, ab pata nahin shariat aagayi hai to kya honay wala hai, haath kaT jayain gay. Shariah to adal aur insaaf hai, insaan ko insaan banati hai aqalmand jaanwar say insaan banta hai. Shariat to aik ma’ashray kay andar adal aur insaaf, aur insaniyat, falahi ryaasat ka naam hai

    Shahid Masood: yeh kaam acha kiya phir hukumut nay?

    IK: main yeh keh raha hoon, in logon nain to pressure main kiya…

    SM: Laikin kaam acha kya, na?

    SM: aik aisa kaam karti hai jo unke manifesto main nahin tha. yeh ajeeb si baat nahin hoee?

    IK: yeh jo laug lay kay aayay thay iss hukumut ko woh liberal alliance bananay aayay thay, main bataadoon, woh Negroponte aur Boucher nain jo liberal alliance banayi thi, Musharraf ki aur PPP ki, ab Allah ki shaan dekhain kay liberal alliance Shariah lay aayi hai (laughs) yeh bhi Allah ki shaan dekhain (laughs again). Udhar ANP bhi liberal thay. Ab dekhain na, Holbrooke ki statement kitni ghalat hai keh yeh jo shari nizam hai yeh baRa bura ho ga. Kya ab woh hamain yeh bhi bataayaiN gay keh hamain kaunsa Islam laana hai?

The nightingale’s torment…


Post by takhalus
Rahman Baba was a famous 17th century Pashtun poet and sufi, nicknamed the nightingale of Peshawar. A symbol of Pashtun culture and poetry, his contribution to Pashtun culture was acknowledged by the provincial government which constructed a mazar near Peshawar city in his honour.

Writer William Dalrymple wrote about the mystic nature of Rahman Baba in this article back in 2004:

Last autumn I visited a Sufi shrine just outside Peshawar in the North West Frontier province of Pakistan. Rahman Baba was a 17th-century mystic poet, and his tomb has for centuries been a place where musicians and poets have gathered. A friend who lived nearby in the 1980s advised me to go on a Thursday night when great crowds of Pathans would sing mystical love songs to their saint by the light of the moon.
“What can we do?” he replied. “We pray that right will overpower wrong. But our way is pacifist. We love. We never fight. When these Arabs come here I don’t know what to do.”

I asked the guardian of the shrine what had happened to the musicians.

“My family have been singing here for generations,” he told me. “But now these Arab madrasa students come here and create trouble. They tell us that what we do is wrong. Sometimes arguments break out – even fist fights and brawls.

“Before the Afghan war there was nothing like this. It only began when Reagan and the Saudis starting sending jihadis to Peshawar. Before that the Pushtuns here loved Sufism. Now trouble happens more and more frequently.”

A prophetic comment, as yesterday morning the shrine was bombed by militants, according to the dailytimes

Locals said the administration had also been warned before the attack to stop women from visiting the shrine.

While he would not have recognised the explosives used, Rahman Baba would have recognised this attempt by the masters of religiosity to destroy his philosophy. After all.. he was targetted by the mullahs of his time..he wrote

“I couldn’t find peace in my search for him. It became unlawful for me to be careless in my religion.”

…and sadly so it had again…rest in peace, Rahman Baba.

P.S the systematic targetting of Pashtun culture in NWFP and FATA is something which I shall be writing about another time.

Myths about radio jamming

The Taliban are thought to be operating weak mobile transmitters. A mobile transmitter that can be carried on a bicycle or motorcycle will have to be very weak. It will need to run off of batteries and also have a low antenna (low antennas limit transmission range since the signal is more likely to be blocked by obstacles such as trees, hills, houses, and buildings). So realistically, the Taliban’s mobile transmitters will be limited to below 1kW almost definitely and most likely below 500W (especially for the bicycle version). It simply cannot compete with a large, stationary transmitter with a dedicated diesel generator acting as a power supply. A small radio station can easily output 100kW of effective power (a term for the combination of the true transmitter power and the gain from the antenna), and its very tall antenna will make sure that signal reaches just about every receiver in the area without being blocked. Army equipment, which is not artificially limited by government regulations, can easily surpass this.

Some common claims about the “impossibility” of jamming the Swati Taliban’s radio station and why they are incorrect

1. The Taliban are using mobile transmitters so they can’t be tracked, let alone jammed effectively.
This is a basic misunderstanding of how jamming works. When you jam a signal, you do not do anything to the transmitter itself. There is no high power beam that you shine on the transmitter that somehow makes it stop. Instead, radio jamming works by sending a competing signal to the receivers you are interested in (in this case, home radios). The stronger signal will win and the other signal will be silenced. FM radio, in particular, is very easy to jam due to something called the capture effect. FM radio receivers used in homes and cars are designed to eliminate noise and interference by locking onto the strongest signal available and suppressing weaker signals. This allows a clear, static free broadcast even when neighboring radio stations accidentally overlap on the same frequency (or nearby frequencies). An AM radio, on the other hand, does not distinguish noise and interference from the true signal, so you end up with static or even several voices talking over each other.

As a consequence, jamming an AM source requires lots of power and the resulting reception will be unintelligible because you have to completely drown out the competing signal with a uniformly loud tone (otherwise you could hear the original signal during the quiet moments). However, jamming an FM signal requires only marginally more power than what your opponent is delivering and you can deliver a coherent signal such as an alternative broadcast or even silence.

2. The radios can’t be jammed because they constantly switch frequencies.

Frequency switching is a defense against jamming only when the receivers are also programmed to switch frequencies. By switching between dozens of frequencies every second, it becomes very difficult to jam because you have to send a strong jamming signal for each of those frequencies. This multiplies your cost (in terms of equipment and power) by as many frequencies as your opponent is using. However, home and car radios are not programmed to switch frequencies in conjunction with other devices. If the Taliban transmitted on 50 different frequencies the broadcast would be unintelligible to a home listener because they would only receive 1/50 of the data. FM works by transmitting on one primary frequency called the carrier and a very small neighborhood of frequencies around it, which contains the actual sound information. When you tune your radio to 88.1, that is actually locking the receiver into the 88.1MHz frequency range plus or minus 100kHz for the sound data. If the Taliban switched from 88.1MHz to 96.3MHz, your radio would go silent until you also switched.

The Taliban may be using advanced frequency hopping for their own strategic communications — there are commercially available walkie-talkies that do this — but they could not possibly be using that technology to broadcast their programs to the public because regular FM radios do not support it.

3. The military can’t jam the FM radio without also jamming their own radio communications, in effect harming more than helping.

This suggestion is just silly. While FM can be broadcast on any frequency, consumer radios are only designed to receive FM transmissions in a certain range of frequencies — typically from around 85MHz to 110MHz (though in most regions the range is smaller). The military uses frequencies outside this band to avoid interference to and from civilian FM transmissions. The entire FM radio range could be jammed with absolutely no effect on military communications — or indeed, cell phones, television reception, wireless networks, or anything else. Frequencies are distinct and broadcasting or jamming one range of frequencies doesn’t impact other ranges.

As you can see, jamming a weak transmitter is almost trivial, whether it’s mobile or not, and no matter where it’s located in your target region. You will never be able to jam it 100% since it will always dominate a small area around it, but you can quite limit that area of dominance to a tiny area that makes it insignificant and prevents your opponent from achieving their information goals.

Another technique that could be used by the army which would be more direct is simply using a direction finder and then physically finding and shutting down the transmitters. An FM broadcast is a notoriously easy signal to track because it makes absolutely no effort to hide itself (such as by employing frequency hopping as noted above), unlike military communications. Free plans for building an FM signal locator can be found with a quick google search. The army even has a special type of missile called an anti-radiation missile that has such direction finding hardware built in. From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-radiation_missile:

“An anti-radiation missile (ARM) is a missile which is designed to detect and home in on an enemy radio emission source. Typically these are designed for use against an enemy radar, although jammers and even radios used for communication can also be targeted in this manner.”

ARM missiles are expensive so this would not be an effective use of resources. However, in principle, the army could use basic direction finding equipment to track the signal from a helicopter, fly near the location, visually spot the transmitter, and disable it with a machine gun.

A brief overview of radio broadcasting Continue reading

Zeenia Satti on the future of US policy in NWFP

There are two op-eds by Zeenia Satti in the Pakistani press — one in The Dawn1 and one in the News.2 The best order to read them is probably Dawn first, the News second. Her Dawn op-ed summarizes the causes of the current crisis, arguing that it is largely the consequence of Operation Enduring Freedom on the NWFP. She argues that the Afghanistan-Pakistan border should have been sealed before OEF, that modern technology has made it possible to seal the border,and that now it is too late because “As a direct consequence of this oversight, instead of decimating terrorism in Afghanistan, an expanded regional version of it has been created and Pakistan has been engulfed in it.”

The key argument of her op-ed in the News is that there is a very strong chance of massive US-led airstrikes on FATA and that the federal government, distracted by the post-election political maneuverings, is completely ignoring this possibility. The consequences of such airstrikes will be devastating to Pakistan’s security. Additionally, she is skeptical that Pakistan can unilaterally negotiate peace with the Taliban.

As Damadola exemplifies, Pakistan’s peace deal with the militants in FATA is meaningless if Islamabad cannot ensure the security of FATA against US aerial attacks. Removing its forces from the area means nothing if a much larger force, allied with Pakistan, is going to strike with far more lethal weapons instead. Troop withdrawal in such a situation in fact jeopardizes Pakistan’s sovereignty. The situation calls for Pakistan to approach the matter of peace in FATA in a multilateral manner through engaging General McNeil, General Patreus and Hamid Karzai, along with Baitullah Mehsud and the Taliban representatives in a multilateral process that satisfies NATO as well.

Satti had a much longer article in Energy Bulletin3 in February in which she presents several scenarios concerning Pakistan’s long-term future. One such scenario presented in the article clarifies her position on why US airstrikes in NWFP present such a threat to Pakistan’s future:

Scenario two could plausibly entail heavy bombardment of Pakistani tribal areas by the U.S forces, causing a flood of internal migration, which will also mean the spread of militants into the Pakistani mainland. This could provide the U.S with a reason to lead an international demand, possibly through the U.N Security Council, for Pakistan’s denuclearization.

In all of these articles, she stresses the fact that it is unlikely that the Frontier Corps, with its strong ethnic links to the Taliban militants, will be able to successfully neutralize the Taliban. On this issue, she has the following to say:

The operation against tribal militants is a Catch 22 for Pakistan’s military. The Frontier Corps, due to its ethnic affinity with the Taliban, has no faith in this battle, hence it is unfit for the purpose. The deployment of Punjabi battalions, or overt military collaboration between the U.S and Pakistan, will be perceived as a genocide and could lead to a Mukti Bahini-like insurgency for Pakistan’s military in the NWFP and Baluchistan, augmented by the street mood in the rest of the country where economic grievance is widespread. Under the postulated circumstances, Pakistan military’s strategic capacity to resist U.S led international demand to relinquish its nuclear arsenal will decrease by the day.

1 Satti, Zeenia. (May 21, 2008). Will Fata’s truce succeed?. The Dawn.
2 Satti, Zeenia. (May 21, 2008). Peace that unleashes war. The News.
3 Satti, Zeenia. (February 11, 2008). Pakistan problem: Washington’s perspective. Energy Bulletin.

Top Taliban leader vows revenge on America

Following US missile strikes on Damadola village, a militant stronghold in Bajur tribal region near the Afghanistan border, Faqir Muhammad, a top Taliban leader vowed revenge on the US. The attacks were also condemned by the governor of the NWFP. The NWFP government has been involved in peace talks with the Taliban and it is feared that these missile attacks will derail those talks. Later Thursday, several thousand protesters attended rallies called by Islamist political parties in Damadola and Khar, Bajur’s main town. Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq denied that Pakistan had given the US permission to target foreign militants on Pakistan soil.

Article: Top Taliban leader vows revenge on America
Author: Habibullah Khan
Publication: The Associated Press

Bush believes history will say he contributed to peace, democracy

Popular Egyptian television presenter Mona El-Shazli was granted special permission to interview President Bush at the White House. The interview resulted in some members of the Egyptian state press calling El-Shazli an “American agent” with many suggesting that the US government paid for her and her crew to fly to Washington in order to conduct the interview. President Bush’s popularity in the Arab world — never very high at the best of times — has been further harmed by his visit to Israel on its 60th anniversary. Responding to El-Shazli’s question about whether history will be on George Bush’s side, he said “Yeah, I think people will say, he had a difficult set of circumstances to deal with, and he dealt with them, with a sense of idealism,”

Article: Bush believes history will say he contributed to peace, democracy
Author: Abdel-Rahman Hussein
Publication: Daily News Egypt

Pakistan Aims to Quell Hostilities

On Wednesday, Pakistan freed 37 militants and Pakistani troops started pulling out of South Waziristan. Government officials reported that the government and militants were close to reaching a peace agreement. However, NATO is concerned that Pakistan’s attempts to broker peace with the militants is leading to an increase in attacks by insurgents in Eastern Afghanistan against the coalition forces.

Article: Pakistan Aims to Quell Hostilities
Author: Zahid Hussain
Publication: The Wall Street Journal

Dozen militants killed in suspected US strike in Pakistan: security official

At least a dozen militants including foreign fighters were killed Wednesday in a suspected US missile strike on two houses in northwestern Pakistan. The attack came on the same day that NATO urged Pakistan to tighten security on its border with Afghanistan, following a surge in attacks on coalition troops in Eastern Afghanistan. Pakistan’s chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP that the army was unaware of any missile strike in the region.

Article: Dozen militants killed in suspected US strike in Pakistan
Publication: The Associated Press