Afghan/Pakistani left coming together

From DAWN Newspaper

AfPak left-wing parties to work together for peace

LAHORE, Dec 21: Left-wing parties of Pakistan and Afghanistan have got together for the first time and agreed on working jointly for regional peace and progress. They have rejected any military solution to the problems of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The consensus was developed at a two-day consultation of Leftists from both countries on `Regional Political Context and its Impact on Pakistan and Afghanistan` here on Wednesday.They pledged to devote all their energies to building concrete alternatives to the false choice between Nato and the Taliban. They sought the right to self-determination for Afghanistan as well as adequate and relevant mechanisms to support and sustain it.

The participants belonged to the Awami Party, Pakistan Workers Party, Labour Party Pakistan, Solidarity Party Afghanistan, Afghanistan Revolutionary Organization, Afghanistan Labour Revolutionary Organization and the event was sponsored by the Swedish Left Party.

Alleging that in both neighbouring states the progressive forces had been pushed to the wall through controlled democracies, they set their aim at working together to resist Nato strikes and standing up as a “third option” to bring peace and make progress on both sides of the Durand Line.

Swedish Left Party representative Ann Carin Landstorm said they supported the dialogue to strengthen left-wing progressive movements and parties. She called for a joint and meaningful peace revolution in the region with the moral support of her party.

She welcomed the gathering after devastating periods of history in the region that led to anarchy, chaos and terrorism instrumented by international imperialistic powers.

Afghanistan Revolutionary Organization`s Faridoun Aryan, Afghanistan Labour Revolutionary Organisation president Arif Afghani and Abdul Qadir Ranto and Nasir Shah of Solidarity Party Afghanistan called for peace in their country and condemned the US-led Nato invasion. They urged the Left to get united on a single platform and resist this regime with sincere efforts.

They called for better relations with Pakistani left-wing parties and expediting the efforts to resist the “war on terror”.

Dr Lal Khan, Jamil Umar, Abdul Qadir Ranto and Farooq Tariq of the Labour Party Pakistan also spoke. — Staff Reporter

Why did the US attack?

First published at SocialistWorker.org

GUNFIRE FROM NATO helicopters killed 24 Pakistani soldiers November 25 in Mohmand Province near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, in an attack on a military outpost that highlights the deep split between the Pakistani and U.S. governments over the war in Afghanistan.

NATO officials made contradictory claims about the attack–that it was a strategic error, but also that they had the go-ahead from the Pakistani leadership for the strike. Both of these claims were different from the original story–that NATO forces were fired on from across the Pakistani border. Accusations are also flying in Pakistan itself that there may have been communication between Pakistan and NATO forces approving the strike.

What’s impossible to believe, though, is that NATO forces–that is, the U.S. military– didn’t know that they were targeting Pakistani military installations during a two-hour-long firefight.

U.S. and NATO forces have been collaborating for a full decade over the war in Afghanistan, and it seems fantastical to suggest that NATO doesn’t know where Pakistani military outposts are located. Pakistani officials have called the attack “blatant”; American and NATO officials are still tight-lipped about specifics.

While it may take some time before the truth of the story emerges, the consequences have been dramatic for the Pakistani-American alliance, which was already ailing.

The U.S. has been regularly killing men, women and children in Pakistan through drone aircraft strikes targeting alleged Taliban fighters. The Pakistani government typically has denied knowledge of these attacks and downplayed them as tragic accidents. But by killing Pakistani soldiers in a helicopter attack, the U.S. crossed a line.

Thus, the Pakistani government reacted almost immediately to the latest deadly air strike, announcing a review of all ties with the U.S., suspension of NATO supply lines through Pakistan, and the imposition of a 15-day deadline on the U.S. to vacate the Shamsi Air Base in Baluchistan–from which the U.S. conducts its drone operations in the region.

Pakistan also withdrew from the much-touted Bonn diplomatic conference, which was supposed to bring together parties throughout the region to hammer out the details of a future Afghanistan. Pakistan’s withdrawal meant that the Taliban’s representatives didn’t appear for the conference either.

This puts American hopes for a political solution to the insurgency in Afghanistan in some jeopardy, since the close ties between the Taliban and Pakistan were supposed to help bring the Taliban to the table.

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THE IMPACT that this will have on NATO operations in Afghanistan is still hard to estimate. Gareth Porter, a historian and investigative journalist, claims that America’s war in Afghanistan has been “thrown into confusion,” and documents just how deep the cover-up of the details of the raid go.

Unfortunately, though, the more meticulous the accounting of NATO’s foreknowledge becomes, the more difficult it becomes to see the logic behind it. Some are already speculating that the motives for the U.S. attack include a complete destabilization of Pakistan itself.

The strikes have also, predictably, produced some substantial saber-rattling from the Pakistani military, which was already humiliated last year when the U.S. operation to assassinate Osama bin Laden demonstrated the complete failure of Pakistani military intelligence. In response to the attack, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has authorized all Pakistani soldiers to respond to any future U.S./NATO aggression with “full force,” without waiting for authorization from the high command.

Islamist organizations inside of Pakistan have also been strengthened, as anti-U.S. and NATO rallies across Pakistan were organized by a number of far-right organizations, including the banned Jamaat ud-Dawa and Jamaat-e-Islami. The cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan’s centrist Tehreek-e-Insaaf party has also been a part of many of these anti-incursion protests, but the Islamists have definitely attempted to use the anti-American sentiment generated by the strikes to their advantage.

Inside of Pakistan, though, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been rocked by the recent revelation that Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Hussain Haqqani, attempted to approach Adm. Mike Mullen to ask the U.S. to help the Pakistani government put pressure on Pakistan’s own military. In exchange, Pakistan offered support for the U.S. campaign against the Taliban’s Haqqani network, as well as the Inter Service Intelligence agency, which has longstanding connections with the Taliban on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In making this overture to the U.S., Haqqani was most likely operating on orders from President Asif Ali Zardari, who is said to fear a military coup. However, both the ambassador and prime minister denied any knowledge of a memo in which the details of the proposed deal were spelled out.

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WHAT THIS entire episode has revealed are the fault lines in both the Pakistani and the American strategies for long-term security in the region. Neither country seems to have a workable strategy for Afghanistan. The fact that they are working at cross-purposes only compounds what would be a farcical game of realpolitik if there weren’t so many deadly consequences. The U.S. drone attacks have already killed hundreds of civilians.

In Pakistan, there has long been a debate about the relationship between U.S. interests in the region and Pakistan’s regional ambitions. The weakness of the civilian government has meant that it has to rely heavily on U.S. aid for both its military and development strategies. This has meant that American interests have tended to dominate over Pakistani interests when it comes government policy.

At the same time, the close ties between industrialists in Pakistan and the Pakistani military means that the ruling class always has an alternative to dealing with the elected government. The military’s long-term objectives are not the same as the civilian government’s, especially since it sees an Afghanistan led by Hamid Karzai as potentially too close to India.

The Pakistan military under former Gen. Pervez Musharraf–who seized power in a coup–was willing to do the American’s bidding. But after Musharraf was forced from office by large protests in Pakistan and pressure from Washington, the U.S. shifted its largesse to the civilian government.

However, civilian governments in Pakistan have always been a junior partner to the military, which has spent more time out of the barracks running the country than not. Currently, political forces close to the military once again sense their advantage. It would be hard not to imagine a plan for replacing the Zardari government. Rumors of a military or a judicial coup are already filling the news channels in Pakistan.

This contradiction inside of Pakistan is worsened by the contradiction in U.S. foreign policy in the region. On the one hand, the American empire relies on Pakistan for intelligence and resources in the war on terror. But everything that the war requires to succeed puts Pakistan directly in the path of Washington’s fire. It is not simply militants crossing the border that worries NATO, but also the ability of Pakistan’s military to influence forces inside Afghanistan.

As a result, two factions have emerged within the U.S. foreign policy establishment with respect to Pakistan. The first, which believes that Pakistan is “too nuclear to fail,” believes that constructive engagement with the civilian government is a necessary part of U.S. foreign policy. The second, now most vocally represented by Sen. John McCain, sees Pakistan as part of the problem and wants to ratchet up the rhetoric about taking action. Calls for this will likely be a major part of the Republican presidential campaign in the U.S.

More importantly, though, what has come to the fore is the absurdity of U.S. and NATO designs inside of Afghanistan and the total venality of the leadership in Pakistan. The war in Afghanistan necessarily produces “collateral damage” in Pakistan. Thus the Pakistani elite can fatten their bellies, in large part due to U.S. aid, while their own population is bombed by U.S. forces.

The toll of a continued U.S. occupation of Afghanistan for ordinary people throughout the region is immense.

Pakistan news

The US announced that it is placing financial sanctions on the Haqqani network in order to isolate them and force some kind of endgame.  That this has taken so long should be some index of Pakistan’s reluctance to go after the Haqqani group, which it sees as an ally in the regional game.

The New York Times reports about the persistent double-bind that the American strategy has produced, they have to rely on Pakistan for intelligence and ground support but cannot compel Pakistan to give up on its long-term objectives about regional priorities (which induces the Pakistani state to rely on groups like the Haqqani network).  Hence, the American military establishment is ambivalent about Kayani’s tenure:

General Kayani has led the Pakistani military since November 2007, when Gen. Pervez Musharraf stepped aside. He has been a focal point for the Obama administration, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, who has paid regular visits to General Kayani to encourage him to stop the Pakistan-based Afghan Taliban from crossing into Afghanistan and fighting American forces.

The Americans have praised General Kayani for his army’s campaigns against the Pakistani Taliban but, behind the scenes, the Americans have been disappointed with the general’s failure to disown the Afghan Taliban, who benefit from sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The United States pays the Pakistani military an estimated $1 billion a year to fight the militants. The American military has also depended on General Kayani’s quiet permission for the C.I.A. drones striking at Qaeda and Taliban operatives in the tribal areas, and has been appreciative of his efforts to ensure transit on the supply route to American and NATO troops in Afghanistan that runs through Pakistan.

Count on Pakistan’s civilian bureaucracy to mess this up again (giving a military leader a green light has always meant that military rule is around the corner).

Pakistani jets are pounding other parts of the country, though there seem to be a variety of figures for the consequences:

ایک اعلی سکیورٹی فورسز کے اہلکار نے بی بی سی کو بتایا کہ جمعہ کو اورکزئی ایجنسی کی تحصیل غلجو کے علاقے قمر گھٹ میں سکیورٹی فورسز کی بھر پور کارروائی کے بعد طالبان جنگجوں بھاگنے پر مجبور ہو رہے ہیں۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ سخت مزاحمت کے بعد سکیورٹی فورسز کے اہلکاروں نے افغان ٹاپ نامی پہاڑی سلسلے پر قبضہ کر لیا ہے۔ جس کے بعد سے غلجو جانے والی شاہراہ پر طالبان جنگجوں کا قبضہ ختم ہوگیا ہے اور شاہراہ کو ہرقسم کے ٹریفک کے لئے کھول دیاگیا ہے۔

Still, the US is looking at alternatives and hedging its bets.  There is a section of the establishment that is pursuing the course of brokering a deal between Karzai and the Taliban in order to start getting out of the country by 2011.  Richard Holbrooke went so far as to say that the war was unwinnable without Pakistan.  This also seems to be the message coming out of the Kabul conference.  Karzai has been moving closer to Pakistan in recent months, and this will have the effect of isolating him from his regional allies in the Northern Alliance.

Incidentally, the US is worried about militant attacks against India derailing the negotiations that are currently underway.  This will only happen if it is in the interests of the Pakistani establishment – it’s unlikely that LeT does anything that the ISI doesn’t know about.  So, American foreign policy leaders play this hot-and-cold game, praising Pakistan in one sentence and denouncing them in the next.  This of course ends up encouraging the Hindu right in India to a lot of chest thumping about talking to terrorists (which might indicate that the US is worried about the wrong kind of militants derailing the peace process).  The talks, by all accounts, are going very badly.

Meanwhile, the new JF-17 aircrafts co-produced by China and Pakistan FOR EXPORT ONLY are hot off the assembly line.  (Be sure to check out the graphic on the Aviation Week page).   Pakistan hopes to use the sale of these jets to modernize its own air force (rendering the purchase of these jets obsolete).

In Faisalabad, almost the entirety of the textile industry has been shut down by a coordinated strike in the factories.  Some 100,000 workers are out on strike, which has prompted the bosses to shut down operations (and laughably accuse the workers of terrorism).  At least part of the reason for the new wave of labor militancy in Pakistan is the rising cost of living, with basic goods like sugar becoming outside of the reach of ordinary workers.