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America Confusing Swat
Swat is exactly what the demonization of Afghan Taliban and the creation of a fake ‘Pakistani Taliban’ is all about. Pakistan has supported Afghan Taliban, so create these monsters inside Pakistan, call them ‘Taliban’, make them kill ordinary Pakistanis mercilessly, and when anger builds up, point the finger at Pakistani military. What the Pakistani media is not noticing is how that everything that the so-called Pakistani Taliban does ends up supporting the U.S. government and military’s argument for boosting troops in Afghanistan and advocating U.S. military intervention in Pakistan. Swat peace deal is good for Pakistan; has nothing to do with America, is none of Europe’s business. There is no way to eliminate the insurgency in Afghanistan without political reconciliation inside Afghanistan itself. Drone attacks and peace deals in Pakistan are irrelevant.
By AHMED QURAISHI
Saturday, 21 February 2009.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The peace deal in Swat is confusing Pakistanis and Pakistan-watchers across the world. The central question is: Is the deal good as Pakistan says or bad as America says?
One of the classic examples of the confusion is this headline from the U.S. newspaper, USA Today: ‘Pakistan appeases militants, endangering itself and U.S. The Deal allowing Islamic law in key area emboldens Taliban, al-Qaeda.’
Here are quick answers and explanations that should dispel confusion, expose fallacies and establish the Pakistani interest in Swat and the tribal belt adjoining Afghanistan:
- QUESTION: Why is Swat peace deal good for Pakistan?
ANSWER: Let’s admit it. The situation on the Pak-Afghan border is confusing even for the most seasoned experts on the region. Most self-styled ‘terrorism’ experts you hear these days generally interpret developments through the prism of U.S. government and military interests. The media develops its perspective based on these experts, indirectly promoting U.S. government interests. The problem with this interpretation is that it leads to biased analysis that ends up hiding important pieces of the puzzle.
Thanks to the biased coverage of the Anglo-American news organizations, there are many pieces to this puzzle that escape the eye of the public opinion in Britain and the United States, not to mention the rest of the world that is beholden to the Anglo-American media machine.
First, understand the players on the ground in Swat [and to some extent in tribal belt]:
- Militants who only attack American and allied occupation soldiers in Afghanistan.
- Militants who only attack Pakistani civilians and military across Pakistan.
U.S. drones DO NOT ATTACK the second type, the anti-Pakistan militants. They only attack the Afghan Taliban that are giving the occupation forces a hard time in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s priority is to eliminate those militants who only attack Pakistani civilians and military, as in Swat, and also in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, FATA.
This is a major point of divergence between Washington and Islamabad. [More details later in this report.]
The problem in Swat is that three distinct elements are fighting there: the Leaders, the Foot Soldiers, and the Criminals.
1. The Leaders: These are the shady commanders of the so-called Pakistani Taliban. Most of them are unknown, with no history linking them to the jihad in Afghanistan the 1980s. They are mostly local. But the secrecy surrounding their identities and the new ruthless tactics they have introduced in the region [throat-slitting, FM radio, hanging in public squares, and other psychological warfare tactics] show a degree of expertise in guerrilla warfare that never existed in these areas before 2004. There used to be small groups, well known to both locals and to security officials but nothing like these cutthroat professional guerrilla leaders that operate today across western and northern Pakistan. Some Pakistani officials believe that what they are seeing in Swat and in some of the other areas close to Afghanistan is something that bears the classic hallmarks of an organized insurgency, sustained from beyond the borders but using local commanders and fighters. In fact, the presence of well trained foreign mercenaries masquerading as Afghan Taliban and fluent in Pashto has been reported on several occasions. Pakistani officials have shared some evidence regarding this with the highest level of U.S. military and intelligence. [More details about this later in this report.]
2. The Foot Soldiers: These are the regular members of the militias in Swat. They are mostly local. Some of them are passionately religious, angry at Pakistani government and military supporting the United States, Others have been convinced that they are fulfilling a religious duty by supporting with these militias that claim to be Taliban. There is no doubt that tactics such as suicide bombings and the extreme barbarian methods used by these militia members against local Pakistanis were introduced by mercenary elements coming from Afghanistan. These gory methods are designed to make the local population subservient to the brutal militia. There are two other places where such methods were used. One is Iraq where the Americans unleashed their own terrorism squads that maligned the Iraqi resistance by committing indiscriminate atrocities. Another place is Algeria, an oil-rich country where the United States is supposed to have used the same tactics, in cooperation with the Algerian military, to convince Algerians to stop supporting the ‘terrorist’ religious parties that had won fair and free elections. The guerrilla methods are the same and the only common element between the two examples and the Swat example is U.S. interest. In Swat, most of these Pakistanis who are regular members and ‘foot soldiers’ of these militias in Swat are misguided elements whose religious zeal is exploited by ruthless and professional guerrilla warfare criminals that command these militias.
3. The Criminals: Local criminal groups that have been emboldened by the chaos in the area. While they are all locals, Pakistani officials are astonished by the endless supply of weapons and money that sustain these groups.
- QUESTION: Is it right to call the militias in Swat ‘Pakistani Taliban’?
ANSWER: No it is not. There is only one Taliban, and that is the Afghan Taliban who also are the original Taliban. They are Afghan and they are part of a larger Afghan resistance to the American occupation of their country. The concept of ‘Pakistani Taliban’ emerged with the arrival of Abdullah Mehsud, a Pakistani citizen arrested by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2001 during the war against the Taliban, and then released in 2004 from Guantanamo Bay and handed over to Afghanistan, only to enter Pakistan to raise a 5,000-strong militia to fight the Pakistani government and military. Mehsud was an ordinary volunteer in the Taliban army that fought the Americans in 2001 but when he returned from Afghanistan in 2004, he managed to raise a well armed fighting force in no time. This is when the American media began talking about ‘Pakistani Taliban’. Mehsud also associated himself with the Afghan Taliban. Mullah Omar in Afghanistan initially welcomed Mehsud’s ‘Pakistani Taliban’. But seeing that Mehsud’s first order of business was to kidnap Chinese engineers inside Pakistan and kill one of them, and seeing also Mehsud’s insistence on fighting and killing Pakistanis instead of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Mullah Omar ordered the Afghan Taliban to cease any links to Mehsud and his militias. The American and the British media, however, continued to prop up the myth of the ‘Pakistani Taliban’ led by Abdullah Mehsud. Reports emerged later that Mr. Mehsud was probably a U.S. intelligence asset. He was not released back to Pakistan from Guantanamo prison. Mehsud managed to raise an army of 5,000 fighters, well armed, trained and equipped to fight the Pakistani military. After attacking the Chinese and his call to the tribals to exclusively fight the Pakistani army and destroy its installations and bases, it became obvious that Mehsud was working an agenda that had nothing to do with Afghan Taliban. Pakistani security forces killed Mehsud one night in July 2007 far away from the tribal belt where he was based. Mehsud was sneaking back into Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he reportedly met his foreign intelligence handlers. He was cornered and killed in Zhob, Balochistan. The Pakistani government deliberately leaked the story to the local and international media in order to send a message to U.S. and Karzai’s puppet government authorities in Afghanistan. After Mehsud’s death, several other mysterious ‘rebel mullahs’ emerged across the area, all well armed, well financed and well trained. One year after Abdullah Mehsud’s death, in July 2008, Pakistan’s president and army chief and the ISI formally warned the chief of the U.S. military and the number two in CIA to desist from sponsoring terrorism inside Pakistan.
- QUESTION: Why the other powers would want to sponsor the so-called ‘Pakistani Taliban’?
ANSWER: There is no question that Pakistan did support the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. And why not, it was a Pakistan-friendly government made up of Afghans who had spent a considerable time in refugee camps in Pakistan in the 1980s and had a strong respect for Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban’s hardline view on some issues was their domestic affair and there was and nor there is anything for Pakistan to be apologetic about for its ties to that government. Islamabad had tremendously suffered in previous decades because of weak governments in Kabul acting as proxies for the Soviet Union. India exploited its alliance with the Soviets to launch terrorists from Afghanistan into Pakistan. The 1970s and ‘80s saw a wave of bombings in all the major Pakistani cities planned from Afghanistan by the Indians. So Pakistan had every reason to support a friendly government in Kabul. Fast forward to 2004, when it seemed that Washington had concluded that Pakistan will continue sympathizing with the Afghan Taliban, especially when the Americans filled Kabul with pro-Indian and anti-Pakistan government officials. The creation of a brutal ‘Pakistani Taliban’ is meant to discredit the Afghan Taliban and to show ordinary Pakistanis that their government and military is supporting terrorists who are in turn killing them. The key word here is ‘Taliban’. No distinction is made between the Afghan Taliban that Pakistan had supported, and the fake ‘Pakistani Taliban’. Pakistan has no problem with the Afghan Taliban, and should not have any problem with it. But the so-called ‘Pakistani Taliban’ are enemies of the Pakistani state and need to be eliminated. The ‘Pakistani Taliban’ have gone to extremes to discredit the Afghan Taliban by resorting to gory and brutal methods of killing ordinary Pakistanis. Some of the stories of the brutalities of these militias are stunning. While the ‘foot soldiers’ of these militias may not realize this, but the commanders who order these acts are only achieving two things: Discrediting the Afghan Taliban and confusing the minds of ordinary Pakistanis about their military by linking it to the ‘Taliban’.
- QUESTION: So ‘Pakistani Taliban’ does not exist at all?
ANSWER: If any do, they have been lost between Abdullah and Baitullah Mehsud and their counterparts in Swat. As I said, the Afghan Taliban and whoever followed them have never advocated fighting Pakistan and killing Pakistanis. They are focused on the occupation armies in Afghanistan.
- QUESTION: Why does not the Pakistani military eliminate the so-called ‘Pakistani Taliban’ in Swat? Why let Swat fall?
ANSWER: There are two reasons why Swat fell to these criminal militias that pretend to be Taliban. First, the military came late. The army was busy on two fronts, the west and the east. It was not watching Swat, which was the responsibility of other security forces. Second, Swat fell because the local police and security forces were unable to match the organizational and material capabilities of these militias, receiving aid from Afghanistan. Well trained elements were sneaking into Pakistan in large numbers. On Jan. 11, 2009, for example, 600 fighters crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan to attack a Pakistani military base. These fighters were Afghan but were not part of the Afghan Taliban. So who were they fighting for? Who armed them? Who paid for them? And who sent them? Second, Pakistani military could and still can clear Swat in a few days but only at a great cost in lives of ordinary Pakistanis. The beauty of insurgent warfare is that it deliberately plants itself among civilians. So when the regular army attacks, civilian casualties will end up creating more enemies for the known force (the military) and bolster the case of the unknown and hidden force (the militias). The tactics of both Hezbollah and Hamas in south Lebanon and Gaza are two good examples of this.
- QUESTION: The Pakistani military and ISI are involved in supporting the so-called Pakistani Taliban in Swat?
ANSWER: This perception is exactly what the demonization of Afghan Taliban and the creation of a fake ‘Pakistani Taliban’ is all about. Pakistan has supported Afghan Taliban, so create these monsters inside Pakistan, call them ‘Taliban’, make them kill ordinary Pakistanis mercilessly, and when anger builds up, point the finger at Pakistani military. What no one notices in the Pakistani media is that everything that the so-called Pakistani Taliban does ends up supporting the U.S. government and military’s argument for boosting troops in Afghanistan and advocating U.S. military intervention in Pakistan. And the answer to the question above is, of course, no. Pakistani military and ISI are not likely to support those who have on many occasions killed Pakistani soldiers mercilessly and decapitated their bodies.
- QUESTION: Richard Holbrooke, Washington’s pointman on Afghanistan and Pakistan, says 9/11 perpetrators, Mumbai attackers, and the Swat extremists are the same?
ANSWER: Mr. Holbrooke is either a novice on the affairs of this region or is deliberately promoting a confusing sales pitch that supports the military and strategic interests of his government in this area. The key players in Swat have been described in detail in paragraph 1 above. They hardly have known links to the Afghan Jihad, let alone any links to the 9/11 perpetrators who were from al Qaeda. As for the Mumbai attackers – if the Indian version of the story is true and if the Indian government answers a list of 30 Pakistani questions and the ‘loopholes’ in the Indian story turn out to be convincing – are from Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which is a Kashmiri group that has been fighting Indian soldiers inside Indian-occupied Kashmir and has not been active in global struggle like al-Qaeda. Mr. Holbrooke is deliberately sowing confusion in making the above statement. [Remember a similar statement by by Secretary of State Colin Powell in the U.N. Security Council in Feb. 2003 where he showed fake CIA pictures of Iraqi WMD mobile units that turned out to be fake?]
- QUESTION: So if Pakistan signs peace deals with the militants, and U.S. stops drone attacks, then what will work?
ANSWER: The U.S is misleading the entire international public opinion when it says that the roots of Afghan problem lie in Pakistan. The core of this entire problem is the U.S. failure at political reconciliation in Afghanistan. This is the key to the entire U.S.-made, post-9/11 Afghan tragedy. Armchair strategists cannot exclude at will a huge segment of Afghans from power by calling them ‘terrorists’. Washington routinely dismissed reasonable Pakistani suggestions internal Afghan reconciliation in the weeks that led to the creation of a new Afghan government in Kabul in 2002. Instead, Washington allowed its policy to be influenced by elements that are strongly pro-Indian and bought the Indian view on how things should be done in Afghanistan [especially on punishing the Pashtuns] and how Pakistan and its military and its intelligence should be targeted as a means to defeating the Afghan Taliban. Even now, the U.S. military is somehow not willing to recognize the vast indigenous support to the Afghan resistance. There is no way to eliminate the insurgency in Afghanistan without political reconciliation inside Afghanistan itself. Drone attacks and peace deals in Pakistan are irrelevant. U.S. and NATO failures in Afghanistan are destabilizing the region. The mess in the Pakistani border areas is a result of the failed American project in Afghanistan, not vice versa.