Myth of South Waziristan Broken: Gen. Kayani


ISLAMABAD: Sitting under a portrait of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, with a huge blazing red calligraphy on his left and an impressive piece of framed Chinese embroidery on his right, recalling the deaths at the Parade Lane of four young sons of his officers who were Hufaz-e-Quran, COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani emerged as the first Army chief to resort to speak to the Americans and their Western allies in words and images that they cannot fail to understand.

One of the last few senior generals to have undertaken military training in the US until the Pressler Amendment was slapped on Pakistan, the US and its allies are now not only listening but also understanding as the COAS uses the symbols of American legendary golfer Tiger Woods on his power point display and comparing full bases at a baseball game to some of the war situations on the Pak-Afghan border.

In a meeting at the GHQ, with analysts and retired senior generals, some under whose command he had served, the COAS opened up his mind and heart to dwell on the dangers facing Pakistan militarily, and the region, and ways and means that the military leadership thinks are the solutions to ensure that at the end of the war, Pakistan does not find itself in the ‘wrong corner of the room’. The interaction continued for nearly three hours.

Speaking on and off therecord, the COAS shared with the participants the presentation that he had made at Nato headquarters in Brussels, where generals from 45 countries heard him, and which many Western military analysts told The News, was a “make and break” presentation, which got the Western military leadership not only ‘educated’, but confess amongst themselves “all” that they were doing “wrong” inside Afghanistan.

One of the direct results of this Brussels presentation, which even the Foreign Office agrees, resulted in the final push which made India coming reluctantly to the negotiating table. The COAS had convinced Nato and others why it was important for him to have his eastern border peaceful.

The proudest moment for any Pakistani was to hear and readily believe that the ‘myth’ of South Waziristan had been broken and the military operations before that in Swat and Malakand in the words of the Army chief, “We did it with no help from the United States. Daily I would receive calls if we needed any help and we replied we needed nothing”.

He was very clear about what was best for Pakistan in these days of turmoil. “Partnership (with the US) does not mean you desire and I start doing it,” said the COAS. He said with the US military aid still in the pipeline, “In many cases I have eaten into my reserves.” While acknowledging he said there has to be a balance for a military budget and one for development as well.

The fear was, said Kayani, even if his military had accepted 5%, it would have been blown up to 50%. The COAS earlier had met General Stanley A McChrystal, Commander International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan, at a time when everyone in the region was still waiting for the US to explain in detail the policies that will take them up to the time that they are ready to leave the region.

“I told McChrystal that the acid test of a policy is that options should increase,” he said, adding that he believed that the only way to measure success inside Afghanistan was to gauge the public support and not the number of people you kill.

“Today, this is McCrystal’s policy inside Afghanistan, where they talk of a political process and reconciliation. Finally, there is realisation today,” added the chief. Looking at the US Afghan strategy, Kayani says he has clearly told the US that raising an Afghan Army in the stipulated time is not possible, and weaning away of the Taliban will only happen if the US is seen willing inside Afghanistan.

“This has not happened and the perception has not been formed. Only when you win over 70%, you are really winning,” he added. He also does not shy away from telling his US visitors that the bulk of Nato supplies are still going through Pakistan and they will continue to do so, and threats of looking for alternative routes do not impress him.

South Waziristan “We had a history of mismanaged operations in South Waziristan and there was a myth that no-one has ever come here and controlled the area. If we had turned back, we would have destroyed the credibility of the military”.

The victory in South Waziristan, the chief said, was because of motivation of the troops, changed tactics of engaging the adversaries from the dangerous ridges of mountains instead of the customary land routes which also resulted in fewer casualties.

Swat operation The COAS said there was no example in history of what the Pakistan military accomplished in the Swat operation and which successfully changed the public opinion. It was the largest heliborne operation.

“So when we send foreign defence chiefs to Swat, we have a story to tell. When I accompanied Admiral Mike Mullen and showed him how we had done the operation, including showing him the gorges there, his response was, “I will send General McChrystal to see this”.

The last visitor was US National Security Advisor James Jones, who heard for himself from educated locals how unpopular the Americans were.

India-centric

Kayani says he did not mince his words when he told Nato that he was India-centric and there was logic behind this. There was no way he could relax on his eastern border to concentrate fully on the west.

“We have unresolved issues, a history of conflict and now the Cold Start doctrine. Help us resolve these issues. We want peaceful co-existence with India. India has the capability and intentions can change overnight,” Kayani had told his audience in Brussels.

Nato is also realising why it is important for Pakistan to help train the Afghan Army because Pakistan could strategically simply not tolerate an Afghan Army trained by the Indians and having an Indian mindset.

Pak-Nato ratio

It is not easy for any commander to count his dead when the killing fields are still alive. But Kayani told Nato how Pakistan in 2009, lost 2,273 soldiers with another 6,512 being wounded.

“Pakistan as one nation lost 2,273 soldiers while US/Nato in the same period lost 1,582. We have 10,000 troops on UN missions,” recalled the COAS. Pakistan has contributed 147,000 troops to its “silent surge” while 43 nations in Afghanistan have sent a mere 100,000.

Pakistan mans 82 posts at the Pak-Afghan border while the coalition and Afghan Army have only 112. “Pakistan’s operations have decreased cross border movements, there is control of areas, squeezing of spaces, and continuous flow of logistic flow,” pointed the COAS. For a man of “few words” when he was DG ISI, today Kayani is saying a lot more. All of which has to be heard loud and clear by the people of Pakistan.

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India Begs US Not To Leave Afghanistan


Bharat Verma

Islamabad aims to create a caliphate with the help of the Islamic regimes running from Central Asia to West Asia and Southeast Asia. India stands in the way. Beijing desires to unravel India into multiple parts based on the pre-British model as it cannot digest the challenge to its supremacy offered in Asia by a liberal union of multi-religious and multi-ethnic States.

While China and Pakistan have joined hands against India and bide their time for the American forces to leave, New Delhi has appealed to Washington not to exit from Afghanistan

With the American declaration of an exit from Afghanistan, Beijing and Islamabad are upbeat. This leaves India in the lurch as it is ill prepared to face the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalists and the Chinese Communists argues Bharat Verma.

The creeping invasion by authoritarian regimes will engulf Asia by 2020 as democracies continue to retreat. India is unprepared and unwilling to safeguard the Asian democratic space.

The growing clout of totalitarian regimes coupled with non-State actors is set to shrink the democratic space in Asia. If the onslaught is not reversed by the end of the next decade, Islamic fundamentalist regimes, Communist dictatorships, military juntas and non-State actors will redraw the international boundaries and largely govern Asia.

The squeeze on the democratic space in India will increase once the American forces begin to exit Afghanistan in July 2011. Islamic fundamentalists with the assistance of the sympathetic Pakistan army will take over Afghanistan and Pakistan. This Taliban stronghold will operate on a ‘hub and spoke’ principle to expand influence and territory. To begin with, India will lose $1.5 billion (about Rs 6,900 crore) worth of investment in Afghanistan, as it is unwilling to defend it.

Islamic fundamentalism will sweep into Central Asia once the American wall holding the spread disappears from Afghanistan. Gradually, the resource rich area will come under the spell of the dark forces. Russia will feel threatened. Americans and the International Security Assistance Force are in many ways fighting Russia’s war.

Unlike New Delhi, Moscow is always willing to fight its way out!

Islamabad aims to create a caliphate with the help of the Islamic regimes running from Central Asia to West Asia and Southeast Asia. India stands in the way. Beijing desires to unravel India into multiple parts based on the pre-British model as it cannot digest the challenge to its supremacy offered in Asia by a liberal union of multi-religious and multi-ethnic States.

The simple truth is that Indian democratic values contradict and thereby pose a threat to the authoritarian philosophy of both, the Communists in Beijing, and the Islamic fundamentalists in Islamabad. Similarly, many regimes in Islamic West Asia feel uncomfortable with India’s ability to generate unprecedented soft power. Regression to medieval times helps keep these autocratic regimes in the saddle.

The all-pervading Indian soft power, therefore, poses a serious challenge. Hence, Pakistan is supported by the petro-dollars dished out on a Wahabbi checkbook to neutralise the threat posed by liberal India.

It is obvious that if the Indian model wins, autocratic regimes like China and Pakistan lose.

Primarily, there have been no terrorist attacks on India after Mumbai 26/11 on two counts. First, the raging civil war within has kept Pakistan preoccupied. Second, the intervention of the American forces has forced diversion of the Pakistan army and its non-State actors’s resources away from India. The stated exit of the Western forces beginning July 2010 from the Af-Pak region will render India extremely vulnerable.

The truth is that American forces in many ways are fighting India’s war too. However, New Delhi’s expectation that they will continue to fight such a war without India chipping is being naive.

While China and Pakistan have joined hands against India and bide their time for the American forces to leave, New Delhi has appealed to Washington not to exit from Afghanistan, but is unprepared and unwilling to assist. The Catch-22 is that neither the West led by America can win without Indian help nor can India prevail without a concrete alliance with the West.

New Delhi’s strategic incoherence continues to encourage Beijing and Islamabad’s designs of destabilising the Union. Militarily, India remains underprepared due to the huge equipment shortages on land, sea and air, created by the ministry of defence over the last two decades.

Shirking its primary responsibility of equipping the military leaves it ill equipped to cope with the increasing intensity of the threat once the Western forces retreat.

The stalemate in Afghanistan predominantly occurs on two counts. First, superior technology in a guerrilla war where motivational level of the adversary is very high, unless combined with adequate boots on the ground cannot deliver victory.

The West does not have a large reservoir of manpower to mitigate the situation. Thus, the under-manned war for past nine years has produced difficult-to-reverse battle fatigue despite the most modern technology on display.

The result is the resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda in the region. To win, a fair share of the soldiery needs to be drawn from Asian stock with equally high motivation and equipped with Western technology to surmount the challenge posed by Islamic fundamentalists.

Second, to defend Afghanistan, the war machinery should focus on Pakistan. However, the American strategy in Afghanistan is similar to the Indian fortress mentality.

Despite multiple attacks and infiltrations by the terrorists, New Delhi continues to fortify itself internally in futile attempts to repulse the attacks. Washington’s approach is similar in Kabul for the past nine years.

The Americans and the allied forces keep defending against the irregular guerrilla forces launched in to Afghanistan from Pakistan, clandestinely trained by the Pakistan army and its Inter Services Intelligence. The ghost forces from Pakistan, when attacked, disappear almost unscathed. They reappear in Kabul at will.

Washington and New Delhi cannot win since both refuse to face the fact that Pakistan is the problem.

To lend stability to Afghanistan, the threat from Pakistan covertly backed by China must be neutralised. Similarly to secure India, the joint threat from Pakistan and China needs to be resolved. In both, Pakistan is the common factor.

Beijing’s Communists back the Islamic fundamentalists in Islamabad to expel the American influence and subdue the Indians, even as Pakistan draws oxygen for sustenance from the economic bailouts from the West.

Logic dictates that to defend Kabul, with the intention of expanding influence of democracies in Asia, the focus must shift to Islamabad. However, an exit by the American forces set for July 2011 from Afghanistan will herald the process of colouring Asia in a dark hue.

With the declaration of the exit time frame, Beijing and Islamabad are once again upbeat.

This leaves India in lurch, as it is ill prepared to face the threat jointly posed by Islamic fundamentalists that includes the Pakistan army and the ISI, and the Chinese Communists. Both support the Maoists in Nepal and the non-State actors including the Maoists in India.

New Delhi therefore faces a simultaneous three-dimensional threat, — the external war on two fronts, worsening internal front aided by external actors, and lack of governance.

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India sidelined at London Conference on Afghanistan


NEW DELHI: Finding the US not overly helpful on arming it with drones and drone technology, Pakistan has now made overtures to the Turkish army

During his recent visit to Islamabad, US defence secretary Robert Gates promised the gift of 12 drones for surveillance. But the 12 RQ-7 Shadow drones cannot send in Reaper or Hellfire missiles which would make them truly lethal and would have provoked an immediate outcry from India. However, experts believe this is dangerous stuff anyway, and it will not take much for Pakistan to reverse engineer them or tailor them for needs other than spying on the Taliban, in other words, to target India.

Needless to add, Pakistan was less than overwhelmed by the offer. Therefore, Indian sources said, Pakistan is now approaching their its friends in the Turkish army for this technology. The Turks were given drones, both attack and surveillance ones, by the Israelis as they battle the Kurds. Whether they are persuaded to part with these for the Pakistanis is another matter, and likely to involve a lot of pre-emptive Indian diplomacy.

India is finding less and less to be positive about in the Pakistan-Afghanistan theatre.

Apart from gifting surveillance drones to Pakistan, the US may be winking at a more robust reconciliation policy with the Taliban in Afghanistan. This will include a greater Pakistani role in the mediation process, which means the ISI will be able to give them greater say in what kind of Taliban gets to be in power in Kabul. This, Indian officials argue, will happen despite US and British “oversight” on Pakistani efforts.

“Their knowledge is pretty flawed, and they remain beholden to the ISI. This is likely to influence their decisions,” said sources. The Pakistani presence in the negotiations comes despite Afghan evidence that attacks like the one in Kabul last week was done by the ISI-friendly Haqqani network.

The reconciliation programme has acquired urgency in the backdrop of President Barack Obama’s withdrawal strategy for 2011. This is of greater concern to India, because it could put a huge question on India’s own participation and future in Afghanistan. Ahead of the London conference on Afghanistan starting on Thursday, foreign minister S M Krishna will try and get a sense from other leaders about the US-led western presence in Afghanistan.

A glimpse of how things may turn out was given by US general David Petraeus when he said, “The concept of reconciliation, of talks between senior Afghan officials and senior Taliban or other insurgent leaders, perhaps involving some Pakistani officials as well, is another possibility.”

Gen Stanley McCrystal, in an interview to Financial Times, said he hoped increased troop levels would weaken the Taliban enough for its leaders to accept a peace deal.

India is increasingly coming round to accepting the reality that some sort of a peace deal could be made. In recent statements, Indian officials have admitted the possibility that people who renounce violence and the Taliban as well as disarm, could be accommodated into Afghanistan’s establishment.

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Pakistan Army ‘Not Impressed’ With US Offered Drones


“Too Little, Too Late, We Already Have Superior UAVs”


Mariana Baabar

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan military sources say they are not impressed by the offer of the United States to supply RQ-7 Shadow Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), as they already have superior quality UAVs, which they have upgraded, and which are in use.

The disappointment is understandable since unlike the drones that fly and take out targets inside Pakistan’s Fata region, the ones being offered to Pakistan are unarmed and commonly used for intelligence gathering.

Later, when DG ISPR Major General Athar Abbas was asked about the overall weapons being provided to Pakistan for counterinsurgency and other military supplies, he remarked, “Too little, too late”.

It was US Defence Secretary Robert Gates who, in a meeting with the media at the residence of the US ambassador, said the US was enhancing Pakistan’s intelligence capabilities. He said the offer comes because Islamabad had requested for them. “We have a lot of information on the Afghan side that we share … we also help Pakistan build its own capacity. We will be providing them with UAVs (Shadow) together with equipment and training,” he said.

To a question whether the US was attaching any conditions to these UAVs, he replied, “I do not know”. In the past, the US was wary of passing on the drone technology to Pakistan as Islamabad could use it in areas other than it had specifically been given for.

One American journalist accompanying him asked about the possibility of stopping arms sale to India and Pakistan altogether. “We have to judge each country’s requirement on its own. We sell Pakistan F-16s and we sell India transport aircraft. We make a decision judiciously,” Gates replied.

Gates appeared relaxed with the questions being thrown at him by the local and US media but it was the ‘D’ word that he refused to entertain. Though several questions relating to US drones were asked, he shrugged them off and would not even give an answer as to whom in the US this question could be put.

When he said that there were no US bases inside Pakistan. he refused a reply when asked from where these US drones flew. Amongst the defence secretary’s aides in uniform that greeted the media before he arrived were those who offered their greetings in chaste Urdu and one of them also spoke excellent Pashto!

As if on cue, the Pakistan military’s announcement that it could not overstretch itself in fresh areas of operation also saw Gates admitting to a query that a ‘trust deficit’ existed. “There is responsibility on both sides. From the US side, we turned away from Afghanistan in 1989. We could have remained engaged but we did not even try. Then the Pressler Amendment brought an end to military-to-military conversation for 12 years when we had no contacts. We cannot rebuild trust through rhetoric,” he said.

Turning to the present moment, Gates said that the US was deeply impressed with Pakistan’s military operations and the level of activity and clearing of areas. “Very impressive. Pakistan is a sovereign state and makes its own decisions on future operations. The past year has been extraordinary. Let me put it this way. If we are in a car together, it is Pakistan in the driving seat with its foot on the accelerator. We are prepared to help and also express our condolences to the 3,000 Pakistani soldiers killed. General Kayani gave me a detailed briefing,” explained the defence secretary.

To a query about the Coalition Support Fund that has been held up and which Pakistan needs on an emergency basis, Gates replied, “It will come and we are also reviving $500 million deferred payment.”

He explained instances in the past where Pakistan’s procedures lacked proper documentation. “We are working with Pakistan on the documentation and will give it to Congress. We are working on it now and some people we are seeking to add to the US Embassy will help,” he said.

When a question of opening up dialogue with the Taliban inside Afghanistan was put to him, he replied, “Afghanistan has its own reconciliation and reintegration plan. It is how low-level Taliban can work in their own community. These are Taliban foot soldiers who work for money. As economic development proceeds and there is greater security, more and more foot soldiers will come back,” he pointed out. But he did not agree that there were any chances of the Taliban forming the next government in Kabul. However, he did say that there were conditions if they wanted a future political role.

“If the adversaries are willing to become part of the political fabric of Afghanistan and they are prepared to play a legitimate role, abide by the Constitution and recognise the Kabul government. What do the Taliban make of Afghanistan? It was a desert (during their last government). “Are they ready to rebuild?”

To several queries regarding the role of India in the region, Gates said that the last thing he wanted to avoid was another Mumbai-like attack. “We all have common enemies and in the past year they tried to destabilise Pakistan itself. We have regional problems that need regional cooperation,” he said.

He said the US was ready to play a constructive role between India and Pakistan and was well prepared. “In 1990 then President Bush sent me to the region and we made suggestions. Both parties do not want intervention and we are comfortable with that,” he said.

When told that with Kashmir unresolved, now more issues, like India’s role in Afghanistan, were leading to confrontation, Gates replied, “Al-Qaeda does not care about Kashmir. Kashmir is an issue for both sides.”

He said he was unaware that at the forthcoming London conference, a formal role would be offered to India. But he acknowledged that India had significant development programmes. Calling al-Qaeda a cancer, Gates did not mince his words when he said: “They are all bad”. Refusing to distinguish between the Pakistani Taliban, Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda, Haqqani network and the various Lashkars, he said it would be a mistake to look at them individually.

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Pakistan to US are you with us or against us?


The tide has shifted dramatically in recent years. Resurgent Afghan Taliban, better armed, trained, and deadly effective, now have control over 80% of Afghan territory. There has been a significant increase in offensive targetting of US and NATO bases and Afghan government officials and buildings in the last couple of years, with even Kabul coming under increasing pressure.

On the other side of the border, the CIA and Indian supported TTP has been getting a hiding at the hands of Pakistan’s armed forces with even the US and NATO stunned at the efficiency and success of the army operations against TTP militants in Swat and South Waziristan. For the first time in 8 years, Pakistan now has the upper hand and has started to dictate terms to the US, starting last week with the rejection of US request to extend the operation to North Waziristan where Jalaluddin Haqqani’s faction allegedly operates from. Anticipating an imminent turnaround in Pakistan’s Afghan policy and fearing the US supply lines into Afghanistan may come under pressure, the US immediately sought to pacify the Pakistan Armed Forces with promises to deliver 12 ‘unarmed’ shadow drones – which hasn’t worked.

The White House and Pentagon are in shock, as this turnaround by the Pakistan Army couldn’t have come at a worse time for them – with the recent attacks on CIA’s Chapman outpost in Khost, a failed civilian government incharge, an incompetent Afghan army, and with 30,000 US troops on their way to what many now realise is a lost cause.

And now the New York Times reveals an interesting conversation between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and an unnamed senior Pakistan Army official that took place last week. The biggest sign yet of the reversal of fortunes comes with a simple but symbolic ‘Are you with us or against us?’ from the Pakistan Army to the United States. The NYT article follows:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Nobody else in the Obama administration has been mired in Pakistan for as long as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. So on a trip here this past week to try to soothe the country’s growing rancor toward the United States, he served as a punching bag tested over a quarter-century.

“Are you with us or against us?” a senior military officer demanded of Mr. Gates at Pakistan’s National Defense University, according to a Pentagon official who recounted the remark made during a closed-door session after Mr. Gates gave a speech at the school on Friday. Mr. Gates, who could hardly miss that the officer was mimicking former President George W. Bush’s warning to nations harboring militants, simply replied, “Of course we’re with you.”

That was the essence of Mr. Gates’s message over two days to the Pakistanis, who are angry about the Central Intelligence Agency’s surge in missile strikes from drone aircraft on militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, among other grievances, and showed no signs of feeling any love.

The trip, Mr. Gates’s first to Pakistan in three years, proved that dysfunctional relationships span multiple administrations and that the history of American foreign policy is full of unintended consequences.

As the No. 2 official at the C.I.A. in the 1980s, Mr. Gates helped channel Reagan-era covert aid and weapons through Pakistan’s spy agency to the American allies at the time: Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. Many of those fundamentalists regrouped as the Taliban, who gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and now threaten Pakistan.

In meetings on Thursday, Pakistani leaders repeatedly asked Mr. Gates to give them their own armed drones to go after the militants, not just a dozen smaller, unarmed ones that Mr. Gates announced as gifts meant to placate Pakistan and induce its cooperation.

Pakistani journalists asked Mr. Gates if the United States had plans to take over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons (Mr. Gates said no) and whether the United States would expand the drone strikes farther south into Baluchistan, as is under discussion. Mr. Gates did not answer.

At the same time, the Pakistani Army’s chief spokesman told American reporters at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday that the military had no immediate plans to launch an offensive against extremists in the tribal region of North Waziristan, as American officials have repeatedly urged.

And the spokesman, Maj. Gen Athar Abbas, rejected Mr. Gates’s assertion that Al Qaeda had links to militant groups on Pakistan’s border. Asked why the United States would have such a view, the spokesman, General Abbas, curtly replied, “Ask the United States.”

General Abbas’s comments, made only hours after Mr. Gates arrived in Islamabad, were an affront to an American ally that gave Pakistan $3 billion in military aid last year. But American officials, trying to put a positive face on the general’s remarks and laying out what they described as military reality, said that the Pakistani Army was stretched thin from offensives against militants in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan and probably did not have the troops.

“They don’t have the ability to go into North Waziristan at the moment,” an American military official in Pakistan told reporters. “Now, they may be able to generate the ability. They could certainly accept risk in certain places and relocate some of their forces, but obviously that then creates a potential hole elsewhere that could suffer from Taliban re-encroachment.”

Mr. Gates’s advisers cast him as a good cop on a mission to encourage the Pakistanis rather than berate them. And he was characteristically low-key during most his visit here, including during a session with Pakistani journalists on Friday morning at the home of the American ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson.

But Mr. Gates perked up when he was brought some coffee, and he soon began to push back against General Abbas. American officials say that the real reason Pakistanis distinguish between the groups is that they are reluctant to go after those that they see as a future proxy against Indian interests in Afghanistan when the Americans leave. India is Pakistan’s archrival in the region.

“Dividing these individual extremist groups into individual pockets if you will is in my view a mistaken way to look at the challenge we all face,” Mr. Gates said, then ticked off the collection on the border.

“Al Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Tariki Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani network – this is a syndicate of terrorists that work together,” he said. “And when one succeeds they all benefit, and they share ideas, they share planning. They don’t operationally coordinate their activities, as best I can tell. But they are in very close contact. They take inspiration from one another, they take ideas from one another.”

Mr. Gates, who repeatedly told the Pakistanis that he regretted their country’s “trust deficit” with the United States and that Americans had made a grave mistake in abandoning Pakistan after the Russians left Afghanistan, promised the military officers that the United States would do better.

His final message delivered, he relaxed on the 14-hour trip home by watching “Seven Days in May,” the cold war-era film about an attempted military coup in the United States.

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Turkish Foreign Minister: No Dialogue With Israel Until it Ends the Occupation and Stops Killings


By Mehmet Nedim Aslan | Middle East Monitor

Turkish Ambassador made to sit in a lower seat and Turkish flag removed in front of Israeli media.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, has made his strongest criticism yet of Israel and its policies. After talks with his British counterpart David Miliband at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, the two ministers held a joint press conference during which Mr Davutoğlu answered questions about his country’s lukewarm relations with Israel. Asked whether Turkey’s criticism of Israel was attributed to a policy of “Islamisation”, Mr. Davutoğlu denied the existence of any such policy and said that Turkey had worked actively for regional peace; indeed, until 2008 Turkey had had very good relations with Israel, even to the point of bringing it to the same table with Syria. The war in Gaza a year ago changed this, said Mr. Davutoğlu. “By attacking Palestinians in Gaza, Israel ruined our peace efforts and we cannot tolerate this. Attacking children and women is unacceptable,” he added.

Davutoğlu emphasised that his country’s relations would not be normalised as long as Israel is occupying and attacking Palestine. “If Israel ends its occupation and unacceptable treatment of Palestinians, then we will be ready the next day for normalised and good relations,” he said. “Turkey’s foreign policy is based on equality both with its neighbouring countries and others. A Jewish kid is not superior to a Palestinian kid. Both should be treated as equal. This is our vision for the region.”

Later, Mr. Davutoğlu gave a speech at London University’s King’s College on the topic “Converging Interests of Turkey and the UK in an enlarged EU and beyond”. Answering questions from the audience afterwards the Foreign Minister was asked why Turkey has close relations with “extremists such as Iran and HAMAS”. Emphasising again his country’s commitment to regional and global peace, Mr. Davutoğlu pointed out that HAMAS had been elected by the popular vote and those in the West who lecture the rest of the world on democracy should respect the Palestinians’ choice. He added, “The Palestinian election was the most democratic and transparent election held in the region and the Palestinians elected HAMAS. There is no such thing as ‘moderates and extremists’. When you occupy a land and kill its people you leave them no choice but hopelessness. One cannot call a country moderate which kills Palestinian children and women every day.”

Mr. Davutoğlu also criticised the US former President George Bush’s Middle East policy that labelled Iran and Syria members of the ‘axis of evil’. “We don’t want a Cold War in our region. We don’t believe that the use of military force and a policy of isolating countries will bring peace. The only way to bring peace to the region and the world is to be inclusive, not exclusive, and this is what Turkey has been working on. That’s why Turkey has good relations both with HAMAS and Iran. Anything that happens on our doorstep affects us, so our vision is to minimise tension and bring countries together politically, socially and economically.”

There is a common belief in the Muslim world that US foreign policy is biased towards Israel thanks to the Israel-Jewish lobby. Ever since the foundation of the state of Israel on Palestinian land in 1948, all US administrations have been ardent in their support of Israel, both politically and economically. In a practical sense, therefore, there appears to be very solid evidence for such a belief; indeed, some would say that the influence exerted by the Israel-Jewish lobby and the resultant Israel-bias by successive US administrations is, quite simply, a fact.

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by American professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt makes it very clear, in an objective way, how the Israel-Jewish Lobby goes about its work in this respect. In Britain, a Channel 4 documentary film, Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby, showed how Britain has been kept on a short rein in terms of its relationship with Israel. The situation in the UK is not as serious as in the USA, but it was still shocking to see how some British politicians are bankrolled by the Israel lobby to support Israeli interests at the expense of the Palestinians. One of many important points raised in the programme was the very subtle ‘threat’ to the Guardian newspaper for its report on ‘Israeli crimes against Palestinians’.

Israel maintains a formidable “hasbara” (propaganda) campaign worldwide to develop good relations within the media so that empathic coverage of the conflict caused by the Israeli occupation of Palestine favours Israel and ignores, covers-up or seeks to justify Israeli crimes against Palestinians. The hasbara campaign to lobby politicians and the media does not exist only in the west. Surprisingly, the Israel lobby also operates in Muslim countries to such an extent that in some places it influences the policy-making process. One of those countries, without doubt, is Turkey. It is true that the AK Party in government has, unlike previous governments in Turkey, demonstrated its opposition to Israeli policies, cancelling a military exercise with Israel, for example, and PM Erdogan’s public condemnation of the assault on Gaza 12 months ago. This is countered, of course, by the fact that Turkey was the first country with a majority Muslim population to recognise Israel.

The unofficial but very strong Israel lobby in Turkey has always been a hot topic of discussion among Turkish politicians, intellectuals, media and ordinary people who follow political affairs. As in many other countries, when the subject of Israel is debated, the ultra-secular mainstream media in Turkey has condemned critics of the Zionist state as being biased against Jews or Israel, and try to downplay the severity of the Israeli occupation and killing of Palestinians. Conversely, when rockets are fired into southern Israel from Gaza, the news in the mainstream media focuses on the suffering of Israelis at the hands of Palestinians without mentioning the historical and political context that Palestinians are resisting Israel’s illegal occupation, as they are legally entitled to do.

On the first day of the Gaza attack last year, when Israel bombarded the police academy compound in Gaza, Hurriyet (which is similar to Egypt’s semi-official Al-Ahram newspaper in terms of its connection with the state’s ideology and is the most influential Turkish newspaper) commented: “After 200 rockets fired by Hamas into Israel, Israeli forces have fought back.” This gave a clear message to its readers that Israel was “forced” to resort to violence, but ignored the fact that a Hamas-Israel truce had been broken by Israel in November 2008, prompting a Hamas response, to which Israel’s murderous assault was the response.

When huge rallies were held in Turkey to protest against the deliberate targeting and killing of Palestinian civilians by Israel’s war machine, in Hurriyet and its sister newspaper Milliyet, Posta and Radikal there was little coverage. Hurriyet’s editor-in chief, Ertuğrul Özkök, once called ‘the most influential journalist’ in Turkey, wrote in his daily column that he feared these protests might result in arousing anti-Jewish sentiments.

Anyone who does not know Turkey well may find this surprising, even shocking, but it is a reality that the most influential media organs in Turkey are indifferent to the plight of the Palestinians but very enthusiastic about Israel. This enthusiasm for Israel among Turkey’s ultra-secular establishment is rooted in their campaign against Islam, which they see as an obstacle to the hegemony of the country’s founding Kemalist ideology. Israel is, in their eyes, a natural ally in the fight against their common enemy.

Because the foundation of modern Turkey was based on the removal of religion from public life – by coercion or ‘coerced consent’ if necessary – while anything connected with Islam was rejected as backward and an obstacle to the development of the state and society, this ultra-secular ideology used very subtle methods so that its indoctrination was not counter-productive. Hence, the word ‘Islam’ was not used in their campaign of secularisation. Instead, they used the terms Arabs, Sheikhs, Sherif Hussain, and Mullahs to indicate where the blame for what happened to the Ottoman Empire should be lodged; they overlooked the fact that the secular establishment was hostile to the Ottoman Empire too. Following the Gramscian concept of hegemony, in which the state, through building state-funded civil and bureaucratic institutions to control society, the Turkish establishment attacked, and continues to attack, religion using all of the apparatus at its disposal.

As Islam was suppressed by the establishment of modern Turkey, so was the ideology of “Turkishness” promoted by the state. The idea was that if people have the political nous to take pride in being a ‘Turk’ as a member of a superior race, then religion would disappear altogether. Looked at in the current context, it is interesting to note that some Jewish politicians have been among those who were promoting the new anti-Islam ideology. For example, Moez Cohen, a member of the Jewish community in the early years of modern Turkey, changed his name to a pre-Islamic Turkish name, Tekin Alp , was a leading member of the Turkish nationalist movement and once said “Down with Islam”.

In the 1990s the Turkish army generals backed a media campaign supporting Israel and Israeli interests. In 1996-97 Necmettin Erbakan’s government brought together eight Muslim countries to form the ‘D-8’ (Developing Countries) organisation aimed at tackling political, social and economic problems faced by Muslim nations. This alliance of Muslim countries was seen as a threat to Israel so the Turkish media started a campaign intended to provoke the generals by claiming that this move could take Turkey back to the ‘dark ages’ and Erbakan’s agenda was to impose shari’ah law. As a result of this campaign, Israel’s friends in the media succeeded in bringing the government to its knees.

After the 2002 general election in Turkey friends of Israel in the media and politics were cautious about the newly-formed AK Party government, adopting a “wait and see” policy. The AK Party took on a heavy agenda, from the EU reforms to the collapsed economy, so did not get involved immediately in the Palestine issue, with the result that the media seemed to be friendly towards the government. In turn, as its self-confidence grew, the government found its voice against Israeli attacks on Palestinians. The reaction of Dogan Media – owning newspapers, including its flagship Hurriyet, TV channels, weekly and monthly magazines and about 50% of the whole media sector in Turkey – was a campaign claiming that opposition to Israel would damage Turkey’s goal of joining the European Union. Some commentators went further, saying that it was not Turkey’s business to get involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Those who were against such Turkish involvement were, at the same time, and for the sake of Israel, upset at the Turkish government’s decision not to allow on its soil US troops involved in the occupation of Iraq.

An ‘official partnership’ between Israel and Turkey’s Dogan Media was uncovered when tax investigators discovered this year that Dogan had evaded taxation on its share sales to German media company Axel Springer AG in 2006. This prompted journalists working for other companies to investigate further the details of Dogan’s sales to its German partner. Yener Donmez, working for Vakit newspaper, found that Axel Springer’s employees must adhere to five main principles, one of which is “support for the vital rights of the State of Israel”; the journalist wrote that since Dogan was Axel Springer’s partner, the same principle would require Dogan’s journalists not to report anything against Israel. The newspaper also claimed that the Israeli state had shares in Axel Springer, making Dogan and Israel partners.

Releasing a statement about its partnership with Axel Springer and the claims that Israel is immune from criticism across its media output, Dogan did not deny its partner’s principle of supporting Israel, but said “Axel is a German company and even if the claims in Vakit were true, this would not affect their publishing policy.”

Today, whether Dogan Media is directly linked to Israel or not, it still owns almost 50% of the Turkish media sector and has not withdrawn its subtle support for Israel. However, its voice is not as powerful as it was a few years ago and may disappear altogether in the light of the tax evasion charges. Be under no illusions, though, for ‘the lobby’ will plan new strategies and find new friends, such is its influence.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-8Z

We will not allow kangaroo cricketers in India: Shiv Sena


Australian cricketers like captain Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Matthew Hayden and Shane Watson are star attractions in the third edition of the lucrative Indian Premier League in March-April. —AFP/File Photo

NEW DELHI: An influential right-wing Hindu party in Mumbai warned on Wednesday that it would prevent Australia’s cricketers playing in parts of India because of attacks on Indians living Down Under.

Bal Thackeray, who heads the radical Shiv Sena party, said the Australians will be barred from playing in Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the state capital.

“We will not allow kangaroo cricketers to play in Mumbai and Maharashtra, till the attacks on Indians are stopped,.” the ageing Thackeray wrote in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna.’

“Our boys are being stabbed, burnt and shot at in that country and still our cricketers have no qualms in playing with them. Do they have any national pride?.”

The murder of Nitin Garg, 21, in Melbourne earlier this month caused anger among Indians in Australia and overseas, and prompted India’s foreign minister S. M. Krishna to suggest it would hurt ties.

The murder followed a spate of violence against Indian students in Melbourne over the past 18 months that has included beatings, robberies and stabbings and has threatened Australia’s education industry.

Australian cricketers like captain Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Matthew Hayden and Shane Watson are star attractions in the third edition of the lucrative Indian Premier League in March-April.

Two major cities in Maharashtra, Mumbai and Nagpur, are due to host IPL matches.

The party’s north Indian chapter also threatened to disrupt matches involving Australians in New Delhi, another IPL venue.

“We will do our best to ensure the matches in New Delhi are also cancelled,” the chapter’s head Sandeep Kulkarni told AFP. “We have very strong units across this region.”

The Shiv Sena has in the past prevented Pakistan’s national team from playing in the state for what it says is Islamabad’s backing of militant activities in India.

Thackeray praised movie legend Amitabh Bachchan for refusing an award from Queensland University in protest at the attack on students in Australia.

“I would have been happy if our cricketers too had shown similar self-respect in the matter,.” he wrote.

“But cricket has become a game of money, and self-respect and patriotism have taken a back-seat.”

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