The British and Pakistani Armies: Sharing Both a Personal and Institutional Future

The long relationship between the British and Pakistani armies is transforming, from one based mostly on pomp, ceremony and personal friendships, to one based on shared strategic interests.

The Pakistan Army can sometimes be more British than the British Army, at least when it comes to pomp and ceremony. Its cavalry officers have the best horses, and they play in the top polo competitions in Argentina and England; many of their sons go to Britain’s top boarding schools; and they even fashion their moustaches in the same manner as Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener.

According to Carey Schofield in her book Inside the Pakistan Army, after independence in 1947 the Pakistan Army inherited the majority of the British Indian Army regiments that were facing the threat on the Afghanistan ‘frontier’. As a result, it initially had British officers mentoring in the military academies and staff colleges.

Now the relationship has come full circle with a Pakistan Army major, Uqbah Malik, becoming the first instructor from a Muslim country to teach British cadets at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He has also trained the Jordanian crown prince, Emirati princes and Afghan cadets. Malik’s role reflects a British bid to learn from the Pakistan Army’s operational and doctrinal training of military forces in the Middle East. Under Malik, British cadets have trained with their Pakistani counterparts in Pakistan, a historical first observed first-hand by the author, and now British NCOs are on their way to becoming part of Pakistan’s military academy at Kakul. There is also talk of a British Major heading to become an instructor in Pakistan, and at present there is a Pakistani colonel at the Defence Academy at Shrivenham, where he is a member of the Directing Staff and has his own syndicate group.

Since the US-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan it has been no secret that the West – and, in particular, the Americans – have seen the Pakistan Army, and especially its intelligence services, as the biggest external obstacle to the destruction of the Taliban.

Whenever the relationship with the US has soured, particularly after a US military helicopter strike killed at least 24 Pakistani troops in 2011, British
senior officers have been brought in to keep the Pakistani military on-side. It has even been argued by the Americans and Afghans that the British military has been too soft on the Pakistanis and cared more about Pakistani concerns than those of the Afghans.

The former British envoy to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard CowperColes, wrote in his book, Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West’s Afghanistan Campaign, that two British defence chiefs, Field Marshal Charles Guthrie and General Lord Richards formed close friendships with the Pakistani top brass. Ahmed Rashid, in his book, Descent into Chaos: The World’s Most Unstable Region and the Threat to Global Security, also said that Richards was too close to the Pakistani military’s viewpoint. According to former US Vice President Dick Cheney, Guthrie’s friendship with General Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler of Pakistan, helped the Americans to forge a close relationship with the Pakistanis in their efforts to hunt down and capture the majority of AlQa’ida’s leadership.

More recently, Chief of the General Staff Sir Nicholas Carter has described Pakistan’s former Chief of Army General Raheel Sharif, as ‘a great adviser and mentor’. This month, Carter became the first British Army chief to be the main guest to attend a Pakistan Army cadets’ passing out parade, an honour reserved normally only for Saudi and other Arab royal families. In the past year alone, Carter has been to Pakistan three times, more times than he has been to any other non-NATO member.

It was these personal British friendships that have kept Pakistan from completely falling out with the US and NATO. Now the British army wants to capitalise on this relationship as it bids to evolve into a smaller, but smarter, force. History and pomp and ceremony aside, the UK–Pakistan relationship is becoming more strategic, to the extent that the two armies could even fight together against a common enemy. Carter, along with Commander Field Army Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders, have put Pakistan at the forefront of their defence engagement policy. They are keen to learn from the Pakistan Army’s reported success in Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which Sanders praised, going so far as to say that what the Pakistan Army had achieved in Waziristan and the Federally
Administered Tribal Areas ‘has not been achieved for 150 years’. One of the cornerstones of this success was how the army leadership used the militants’ own narrative against them: enforcing regulations on hate speech; scrutinizing more closely the curriculums in religious schools; prohibiting media coverage of terrorist organisations; and, crucially, declaring that only the Pakistani state – as a Muslim state – could declare jihad – non-state actors such as the Taliban or Daesh did not have the authority to do so. The British army, which has been operating in Muslim countries such as

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Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, is engaging the Pakistanis on ‘lessons learned’. So the question for the British is how they can use the religion card to fight militants who justify their war against the UK based on theology.
The UK is also keen to leverage Pakistan’s historically close ties to the Gulf. In his book, Churchill’s Empire, Richard Toye claims that Winston Churchill wanted the new state of
Pakistan to replace the old British Indian Army as the guardian of the Gulf, and in 1956 Pakistan were close to taking part in the Suez Crisis on behalf of the British. At the time, the Egyptians under President Gamal Abdel Nasser saw Pakistan as a Western and British lackey. This year, Pakistan’s continuing close ties to the Gulf were made clear
when General Raheel Sharif became the head of a newly formed military alliance of mostly Sunni Islamic states led by Saudi Arabia, known as the ‘Muslim NATO’. Indeed, Pakistan continues to be a key provider of security to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, both of which are vital for the UK’s own security: intelligence sharing with Saudi Arabia is key to stopping terror plots in the UK, while Bahrain now serves as a permanent base for British forces in the Persian Gulf. Pakistan and the UK have already worked together
in the Gulf, particularly on counterpiracy operations in the Horn of Africa and Persian Gulf.

Britain, under its own new East of Suez policy, can in the long-term benefit from cooperation with the Pakistani Army. The trust between the two armies built during the Afghan war is set to pay dividends both in the Middle East and at the prestigious academies in the UK.
The author knows that the 32 Engineer Regiment of the British Army is partnering in counter-IED capability with the Pakistan Army Engineers, and the British Army’s 77th
Brigade are conducting intellectual level engagements on perception management of the enemy, the cultural side of the war and media strategy. The two armies hold an annual counterinsurgency conference, focusing not just on combat, but also diplomacy and refugee management. The author is aware that the British Army is also sending officers to the Centre for International Peace and Security – which prepares officers to deploy in conflict zones – at the National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad
to learn from Pakistan’s experiences in peacekeeping.
Britain is also using the Pakistan Army to help with the recruitment of more British Muslims – the majority of whom are of Pakistani origin – into the UK armed forces. British Muslims have reportedly been reluctant to join the armed forces partly because they believe that the UK is waging a war against Islam. By saying that the British and Pakistani armies are fighting against terrorists and not Islam, the army is attempting a new approach, and the author has seen first-hand that Pakistani military officers are regular guests at recruitment events to help to explain this. The British Army has invited Pakistan Army officers to address key community leaders in cities such as Manchester
and Birmingham to help not just with recruitment but also to explain what it is doing in regional conflicts.
The British and Pakistani armed forces appear now to be on the same page, from training each other’s officers and soldiers, to countering violent extremism in their communities and showing a united front, whether on the Afghan border or in the Gulf. The message being given is that the two militaries are fighting the same enemy, whether it be on the Pakistani–Afghan border or in the Middle East. With geopolitical alliances shifting rapidly, and with instability and conflict raging from North Africa to Southeast Asia, the UK–Pakistan military alliance that was born in 1947 on polo fields and golf courses is now playing a key role in both Pakistan’s and Britain’s defence engagement with the wider world. Both armies stand to benefit from this in the decades to come.

Kamal Alam
Kamal has been a Visiting Fellow at RUSI since July 2015 and specialises in the Pakistan Army’s relationship with the British Army. Previously he has advised the British Army on Syrian affairs.

With thanks to Kamal Alam and RUSI for allowing me to use this.

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Pakistan: When blasphemy charges make no sense

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If we thought we had seen the worst of what the blasphemy laws of this country could be used for, we really had not seen anything until the very unusual, very outrageous current case of as many as 68 lawyers being booked for the ambiguous ‘crime’ of committing blasphemy. In what can only be termed absurdity, the Punjab police has charged the largest number of people ever for a single blasphemy case after the same lawyers protested when one of their colleagues was detained by the police. Now, one wonders how a blasphemy case is applicable to a protest and that is where the sheer lunacy comes in: the lawyers were voicing their anger at what they alleged was the illegal detainment of one of their colleagues by the police in Jhang and were raising slogans against Station House Officer (SHO) Umar Daraz. The police levelled the blasphemy charges when a complainant registered the case saying that the name ‘Umar’ — also the name of the second Caliph — was used disrespectfully by the lawyers. This has got to be one of the maddest examples of the complete and utter abuse of the blasphemy laws in this country, which are a set of black laws frequently used to settle personal scores and achieve sinister agendas. The case smacks of collusion between the complainant, Arshad Mahmood, a resident of Jhang, and the police who seem to be looking for revenge against the lawyers who dared protest against them. This is nothing new as these laws have been used in the past for all other reasons except for blasphemy and religion. However, the sheer scale of the case is a first. 
It reminds one of another tragic case that occurred a year or so ago when an unfortunate businessman dared to throw away the business card of a man whose name was Mohammad. The man was lynched and killed by an angry crowd that had been riled up with sentiments of blasphemy. This is a terribly primitive society if such moronic instances are enough to fuel the fire of hate and persecution. There is little doubt that the lawyers in this case are being made the victims of a plot by the Punjab police in an attempt by them to assert their dominance. It goes without saying that the lawyers’ community in Jhang has rallied together to stop this injustice but there is little luck that sanity will prevail considering that, once the label of blasphemy has been slapped upon any miserable soul, there is little one can do to protect them — such people, if even acquitted by the courts, are brutally murdered for the very accusation of blasphemy. These lawyers, all 68 of them, have now been assigned a death warrant no matter the fact that this case exemplifies the textbook abuse of the blasphemy laws. 
Whilst we are on the topic of blasphemy, Chief Justice (CJ) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani has called for observance that offence against any religion is termed as blasphemy. He expressed his concern at the non-registration of cases against those who set Hindu temples on fire in Sindh. This is definitely a welcome move by the CJ, putting matters into perspective that all religions should be accorded the same amount of respect, especially in Pakistan where minorities are treated in an abhorrent way with many false blasphemy cases being registered against them. It is commendable that the honourable CJ has stepped up to establish some safeguards for our belittled minorities but the biggest safeguard can come from at least amending the blasphemy laws if we cannot repeal them. It is all too easy to falsely accuse members of the general public, particularly our oft-neglected minorities, and that is why the punishment for false accusation should be as harsh as the catastrophe usually mounted on the accused. We have seen too many blasphemy cases go horribly, bloody wrong. It is time to change the absurdity for some logic and safeguards.

TTP’s ambiguities

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The purported Taliban intention to hold talks with the government and the government’s desire to bring the talks to some logical conclusion have fallen flat owing to mismanagement and lack of trust between both the parties. The inevitability of the lack of trust cannot be argued about any further. The frustration of Chaudhry Nisar with the Taliban’s committee for its flip flop method of working out a peace deal has revealed the absence of common areas of interest between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Whatever has been done to appease the TTP by the government such as releasing its prisoners without reciprocity has failed to make any difference. Even when the ceasefire had been in place, the attacks never stopped. Low intensity hits were carried out to keep the government off-balance. The so-called dialogue process does not seem to have reduced terrorism. The policy of retaliation for any deadly attack, as has happened in the aftermath of the Islamabad fruit market explosion, seems to be the reason behind the relatively calmer atmosphere. Now that the TTP has pulled out of the ceasefire agreement and the Jamaat-e-Islami has said rather loud and clear that the Islamic clauses of Pakistan’s constitution should be implemented, the failure of the peace process has started looming. It seems that unless the dialogue toes the TTP’s line, the ambiguity surrounding the peace process would keep growing thicker. It is this ambiguity or the political objective of the Taliban’s committee that has forced Major Amir to pull out of the peace dialogue as one of the government’s mediators.

According to Major Amir, a claim reinforced by Chaudhry Nisar, the Taliban are less to be blamed for the stalled dialogue than its negotiating committee that had been playing to the gallery for point scoring. It seems as if the Jamaat has taken over the lead position, huddling the mullahs together to decide about the fate of terrorism vis-a-vis the state. Of late the tension between the government and the army over managing the TTP had been exploited as well to stall the talks. The demand that the army is given centre-stage, suggesting that it is the army calling the shots and the government is simply hiding behind a facade, created even more confusion.  

For the unpredictability surrounding the peace dialogue, the government is to be blamed the most. If the desire is to keep violence at a minimum by keeping the TTP engaged in dialogue so that peace could be maintained, the government is digging a deeper grave to bury the country’s future. 

http://www.jang.com.pk

How the US created, and lost, Afghan war

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It was a typical Kabul morning. Malik Ashgar Square was already bumper-to-bumper with Corolla taxis, green police jeeps, honking minivans, and angry motorcyclists. There were boys sellingphone cards and men waving wads of cash for exchange, all weaving their way around the vehicles amid exhaust fumes. At the gate of the Lycee Esteqial, one of the country’s most prestigious schools, students were kicking around a soccer ball. At the Ministry of Education, a weathered old Soviet-style building opposite the school, a line of employees spilled out onto the street. I was crossing the square, heading for the ministry, when I saw the suicide attacker. 

He had Scandinavian features. Dressed in blue jeans and a white t-shirt, and carrying a large backpack, he began firing indiscriminately at the ministry. From my vantage point, about 50 meters away, I couldn’t quite see his expression, but he did not seem hurried or panicked. I took cover behind a parked taxi. It wasn’t long before the traffic police had fled and the square had emptied of vehicles. 

Twenty-eight people, mostly civilians, died in attacks at the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Justice, and elsewhere across the city that day in 2009. Afterward, US authorities implicated the Haqqani Network, a shadowy outfit operating from Pakistan that had pioneered the use of multiple suicide bombers in headline-grabbing urban assaults. 

Unlike other Taliban groups, the Haqqanis’ approach to mayhem was worldly and sophisticated: they recruited Arabs, Pakistanis, even Europeans, and they were influenced by the latest in radical Islamist thought. Their leader, the septuagenarian warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, was something like Osama bin Laden and Al Capone rolled into one, as fiercely ideological as he was ruthlessly pragmatic. 

And so, many years later, his followers are still fighting. Even with the US withdrawing the bulk of its troops this year, up to 10,000 Special Operations forces, CIA paramilitaries, and their proxies will likely stay behind to battle the Haqqanis, the Taliban, and similar outfits in a war that seemingly has no end. With such entrenched enemies, the conflict today has an air of inevitability – but it could all have gone so differently. 

Though it’s now difficult to imagine, by mid-2002 there was no insurgency in Afghanistan: al-Qaeda had fled the country and the Taliban had ceased to exist as a military movement. Jalaluddin Haqqani and other top Taliban figures were reaching out to the other side in an attempt to cut a deal and lay down their arms. Tens of thousands of US forces, however, had arrived on Afghan soil, post-9/11, with one objective: to wage a war on terror. 

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As I report in my new book, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, the US would prosecute that war even though there was no enemy to fight. 

To understand how America’s battle in Afghanistan went so wrong for so long, a (hidden) history lesson is in order. In those early years after 2001, driven by the idee fixe that the world was rigidly divided into terrorist and non-terrorist camps, Washington allied with Afghan warlords and strongmen. Their enemies became ours, and through faulty intelligence, their feuds became repackaged as “counter-terrorism”. 

The story of Jalaluddin Haqqani, who turned from America’s potential ally into its greatest foe, is the paradigmatic case of how the war on terror created the very enemies it sought to eradicate. 

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The campaign to take out Haqqani: 2001


Jalaluddin Haqqani stands at about average height, with bushy eyebrows, an aquiline nose, a wide smile, and an expansive beard, which in its full glory swallows half his face. In his native land, the three southeastern Afghan provinces known collectively as Loya Paktia, he is something of a war hero, an anti-Soviet mujahedeen of storied bravery and near mythical endurance. (Once, after being shot, he refused painkillers because he was fasting.) 

During the waning years of the Cold War, he was beloved by the Americans – Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson called him “goodness personified” – and by Osama bin Laden, too. In the 1980s, the US supplied him with funds and weapons in the battle against a Soviet-backed regime in Kabul and the Red Army, while radical Arab groups provided a steady stream of recruits to bolster his formidable Afghan force. 

American officials had this history in mind when the second Afghan War began in October 2001. Hoping to convince Haqqani (who had backed the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the post-Soviet years) to defect, they spared his territory in Loya Paktia the intense bombing campaign that they had loosed on much of the rest of the country. The Taliban, for their part, placed him in charge of their entire military force, both sides sensing that his could be the swing vote in the war. Haqqani met with top Taliban figures and Osama bin Laden, only to decamp for Pakistan, where he took part in a flurry of meetings with Pakistanis and US-backed Afghans. 

His representatives also began meeting American officials in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, and the United Arab Emirates, and the Americans eventually offered him a deal: surrender to detention, cooperate with the new Afghan military authorities, and after a suitable period, he would be free to go. 

For Haqqani, one of Loya Paktia’s most respected and popular figures, the prospect of sitting behind bars was unfathomable. Arsala Rahmani, an associate of his, who would go on to serve as a senator in the Afghan government, told me, “He wanted to have an important position in Loya Paktia, but they offered to arrest him. He couldn’t believe it. Can you imagine such an insult?” 

Haqqani declined the American offer, but he left the door open to future talks. The prevailing ethos in the US, though, was that you were either with us or against us. “I personally always believed that Haqqani was someone we could have worked with,” a former US intelligence official told journalist Joby Warrick. “But at the time, no one was looking over the horizon, to where we might be in five years. For the policy folks, it was just ‘screw these little brown people.'” 

In early November, the US began bombing Loya Paktia. Two nights later, warplanes attacked Haqqani’s home in the town of Gardez, near the Pakistani border. He was not present, but his brother-in-law and a family servant died in the blast. The next evening, US planes struck a religious school in the village of Mata China, one of many Haqqani had built in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which provided room, board, and education to poor children. Malem Jan, a Haqqani family friend, showed up the next morning. 

“I had never seen anything like it,” he said. “There were so many bodies. The roof was flattened to the ground. I saw one child who was alive under there, but no one could get him out in time.” Thirty-four people, almost all children, lost their lives. 

Haqqani was in his primary residence in the nearby village of Zani Khel, a dusty cluster of mud houses that had once been an anti-Soviet stronghold. “We heard the blast, and then the sound of planes in the sky,” a cousin, who lived next door, told me. “We became very afraid.” 

Haqqani retreated to the house of Mawlawi Sirajuddin, a village chief. Not long after, the house shook violently from a direct airstrike. Haqqani was grievously wounded but managed to climb out of the rubble and escape. Sirajuddin, though, was not so lucky: his wife Fatima, three grandsons, six granddaughters, and 10 other relatives were killed. 

The next morning, Haqqani sent word to his subordinates and former sub-commanders advising them to surrender. The Americans, however, had already found the local ally in Loya Paktia that they’d been looking for, a would-be warlord and supporter of the exiled Afghan king named Pacha Khan Zadran. With a thick uni-brow and handlebar mustache, PKZ (as he came to be known to the Americans) looked something like an Afghan Saddam Hussein. 

Flamboyant, illiterate, and quick-tempered, he was in many ways the opposite of Haqqani, under whom he had briefly fought during the anti-Soviet jihad. He had arrived in Loya Paktia shortly after the Taliban fled in mid-November and promptly declared himself governor of the three provinces. In no time, he had sealed his ties to the Americans by promising to deliver the man they now wanted most: Jalaluddin Haqqani. 

“The last time I saw him,” Malem Jan said, “he was worried and upset. He told me to save myself and leave, because Pacha Khan would not allow us to live.” One early morning in late November, Haqqani slipped across the border into Pakistan. He would never be seen in public again. 

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An attempt at reconciliation up in flames: 2001


On December 20, 2001, the American-backed Hamid Karzai was preparing for his inauguration as interim president of Afghanistan. Nearly 100 of Loya Paktia’s leading tribal elders set out that afternoon in a convoy for Kabul to congratulate Karzai and declare their loyalty, a gesture that would go far in legitimizing his rule among the country’s border population. From Pakistan, Haqqani sent family members, close friends, and political allies to participate in the motorcade – an olive branch to the new government. 

About 30 vehicles long, the convoy drove through the desert for hours. Near sunset, it reached a hilltop and was forced to stop: PKZ and hundreds of his armed men were blocking the road. Malek Sardar, an elder from Haqqani’s tribe, approached him. “He was demanding that the elders should accept him as leader of Loya Paktia,” Sardar told me. “He wanted our thumb prints and signatures right then and there.” Sardar promised to return after the inauguration to discuss the matter, but PKZ would not budge, so the convoy backed up and headed off to find a different route to Kabul. 

On his satellite phone, Sardar called officials in the Afghan capital and at the US consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, looking for help, but he was too late. PKZ, who had the ear of key American military figures, had informed them that a “Haqqani-al Qaeda” cavalcade was making its way toward Kabul. Shortly thereafter, amid deafening explosions, cars started bursting into flames. “We could see lights in the sky, fire everywhere. People were screaming and we ran,” Sardar said. 

The Americans were bombing the convoy. The attacks would continue for hours. As Sardar and others took cover in a pair of nearby villages, planes circled back and struck both locations, destroying nearly 20 homes and killing dozens of inhabitants. In all, 50 people, including many prominent tribal elders, died in the assault. 

It was now late December, and in Qale Niazi, a village that had been a Haqqani stronghold in the 1980s, the bombing had frightened elders into taking control of a decades-old weapons dump. “We did not want Pacha Khan to take these weapons and use them,” said elder Fazel Muhammad. “They should belong to the government of Karzai, so we guarded it until they came.” 

He was on his way to the village one night for a wedding party when he heard the American planes. A moment later, mud houses ahead of him exploded in a direct hit. A second bomb struck the weapons depot, setting off a series of eruptions. The night sky lit up, illuminating fleeing women and children. “Some helicopters came,” Muhammad said, “and then these people were no more.” 

In the morning, Fazel Muhammad went looking for the house of his relatives, where the wedding party had been, but all he found there were pulverized mud bricks, twisted picture frames, deformed pots, a child’s shoe, a scalp with braided hair, and severed human fingers. Later, a tribal commission set up to investigate the massacre determined that PKZ had fed the Americans “intelligence” that Qale Niazi was a Haqqani stronghold. According to a United Nations investigation, 52 people had died: 17 men, 10 women, and 25 children. 

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Reconciliation and flames: 2002


In six weeks, America’s campaign to kill Jalaluddin Haqqani had resulted in 159 dead civilians, a flattened village, 37 destroyed homes, a fractured tribal leadership, and the ascendancy of one man, Pacha Khan Zadran, as the most important player in Loya Paktia. Meanwhile, Haqqani and his followers were in hiding in Pakistan, watching the three provinces in which they had enjoyed prestige and riches slip out of their grasp. 

Life inside Pakistan proved little better. While Haqqani hid in Peshawar, his family had retreated to a suburb of Miram Shah, the capital of the tribal agency of North Waziristan. The Pakistani military was, at that point, working closely with Washington to round up al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects. In December, its troops raided the Miram Shah home, arresting his son Sirajuddin. Weeks later, they stormed the Peshawar hideout, with Haqqani barely escaping. 

In the following months, US Special Forces teams staged secret incursions into Pakistan to raid Haqqani homes and seminaries, inciting anger in the local community. “We will never allow anybody to destroy our religious institutions,” said Hajji Salam Wazir, a tribal elder. “I am surprised how the Americans use the Muslims,” he added. “Until yesterday, Haqqani was a hero and freedom fighter for the US, and they sent their own military experts to train him. Now he is a terrorist.” 

Caught between the threat of Pakistani arrest and American assassination, Haqqani decided to reach out again to the new Afghan government. In March 2002, he dispatched his brother Ibrahim Omari to Afghanistan in a bid to reconcile with Karzai. In a public ceremony attended by hundreds of tribal elders and local dignitaries, Omari pledged allegiance to the new government and issued a call for Haqqani followers to return from Pakistan and work with the authorities. 

He was then appointed head of Paktia province’s tribal council, an institution meant to link village elders with the Kabul government. Soon, hundreds of Haqqani’s old sub-commanders, who had been hiding in fear of PKZ, came in from the cold. 

Malem Jan was one of them. With long, curling eyelashes, daubs of kohl under his eyes, and polished fingernails, he had a taste for dancing, which he often performed solo to the delight of his comrades. He was also an accomplished commander, having fought under Haqqani during the early 1990s against the Communist government. In the spring of 2002, he rounded up his old fighters and soon they were working for the CIA as a paramilitary unit, providing security for American missions in search of al-Qaeda. 

“It was a good time,” Malem Jan recalled. “We were working closely together, sharing meals, sharing gossip.” The CIA militias, of which there were a half-dozen in Loya Paktia, would soon enough grow into a 3,000-man shadow army, collectively called Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, which operates to this day outside of the Afghan government’s jurisdiction and answers only to US forces. 

Contacts between Haqqani and the CIA were rekindled, with his brother Omari acting as the intermediary. Plans were made for a meeting between Haqqani himself and Agency representatives. Key to a deal was the assurance that he would be allowed to return to Afghanistan and take part in Loya Paktia politics. The trouble was PKZ, who viewed such maneuverings with jealousy and was still angling to control the three provinces outright. “I must be allowed to take over as governor,” he declared to the Austin American-Statesman. “If it’s not me, it will be someone from al-Qaeda.” 

When Karzai appointed a new man to head Paktia province, PKZ made his move, laying siege to the governor’s mansion and killing 25 people. At the same time, he convinced American military officers to clamp down on the Haqqanis. One evening, as Omari was visiting the house of a government official near Kabul, US Special Operations forces showed up – without the CIA’s knowledge – and arrested him. That week, similar arrests of Haqqani followers took place across Loya Paktia. 

As soon as Malem Jan realized what was happening, he fled to Pakistan, but a number of his subordinates were rounded up and dispatched to the new American prison at Bagram Air Base, a quickly expanding military command center. Swat Khan, his deputy, said that in his initial questioning he was hung by his wrists from the ceiling. Later, he was beaten. Finally, he was shipped to Guantanamo, where, a few years later, he attempted suicide. “It’s all there when I close my eyes,” he told me after his release. “The nightmare never leaves me.” 

It took the CIA months to realize that Omari was in an American lockup. When he was finally released, he looked like a different man. It was a cold autumn day, on a hilltop near the town of Khost, when hundreds of tribal elders and government officials came to receive him. There were dignitaries from villages that had been bombed and attacked by American planes and PKZ’s forces, elders who had survived the disastrous convoy, farmers whose sons had been sent to Guantanamo. 

“At first I couldn’t even recognize him,” said tribal elder Malek Sardar. “He wouldn’t talk about what they had done to him. It seemed too painful to ask.” Slowly, his voice quivering, Omari addressed the crowd. There was no hope in this government or the Americans, he told them. Some elders shouted insults at Karzai. Others said the Americans were no different from the Russians. Omari swore he would never set foot on Afghan soil again until it was free of “the infidels.” Not long after, he left for Pakistan. 

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The Haqqani Network: 2004-2014


In the summer of 2004, Malem Jan was sitting with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the second son of Jalaluddin, in their Pakistani base in the North Waziristan town of Miram Shah when they heard their names on the BBC. The Americans were offering $250,000 and $200,000, respectively, as rewards for information leading to their capture. Introverted, religious, and fiercely intelligent, the younger Haqqani was rapidly taking over the reins of his ailing father’s network, and he smiled at the thought of his deputy, Malem Jan, fetching a larger reward than him. “They say he who has the highest bounty on his head is the closest to God,” he joked. 

The Haqqanis were now in open war against the Americans. Whereas his father had presided over Loya Paktia with popularsupport, Sirajuddin ruled from the shadows through fear – assassinations, kidnappings, extortion, and roadside bombings. Miram Shah had become the world capital of radical jihad, home to al-Qaeda and an assortment of Chechens, Uzbeks, and Europeans fighting under Haqqani’s banner. The ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service, was now supporting the Haqqanis as way of influencing events inside Afghanistan, even as Islamabad publicly allied with Washington. 

By classifying certain groups as terrorists, and then acting upon those classifications, the US had inadvertently brought about the very conditions it had set out to fight. By 2010, the Haqqani network was the deadliest wing of an increasingly violent insurgency that was claiming the lives of countless civilians, as well as American soldiers. It was hard, by then, even to recall that, back in mid-2002, US forces had been without an enemy: the remnants of al-Qaeda had fled to Pakistan, the Taliban had collapsed, and the Haqqanis were attempting to reconcile. 

If Pacha Khan Zadran was able to convince his American allies otherwise, it was because of the logic of the war on terror. “Terrorism” was understood not as a set of tactics (hostage taking, assassinations, car bombings), but as something rooted in the identity of its perpetrators, like height or temperament. This meant that, once designated a “terrorist,” Jalaluddin Haqqani could never shake the label, even when he attempted to reconcile.

On the other hand, when PKZ eventually broke with the Karzai government and turned his guns on the Americans, he was labeled not a terrorist but a “renegade”. (He eventually fled to Pakistan, was arrested, turned over to the Afghan government, and later was elected to parliament.) 

In recent years, the US has waged an intense drone campaign against the Haqqanis in their North Waziristan stronghold. Dozens of their commanders have been killed, including their top military chief, Badruddin Haqqani. Many others have been arrested. Today, the Haqqani network is a shadow of its former self. 

The group’s influence, however, lives on. In 2012, I received a phone call from the family of Arsala Rahmani, the Afghan senator with whom I’d become friendly. That morning, a gunman had pulled up alongside Rahmani’s vehicle, idling in a crowded intersection, and shot him point blank. 

Later, I learned that a former Haqqani-aligned commander named Najibullah was the culprit; he had launched his own faction, Mahaz-e-Fedayeen, whose ruthlessness made the Haqqanis look like amateurs. Now in the crosshairs of US counter-terrorism forces, his group is but the latest enemy in a war that never seems to end. 

By Anand Gopal, a TomDispatch regular. Anand the author of the just-published No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes (Metropolitan Books). He reported on the Afghan War for the Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor and is now a fellow of the New America Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter @Anand_Gopal

Waiting Game

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While government negotiators distance themselves from talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a high-level meeting on Monday morning, chaired by Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif, agreed to formalise an agenda for a final push in talks with the terrorists, even as a series of attacks in Karachi and other parts of the country over the last two days left several people dead. An explosion killed three peace committee members in Landikotal on Sunday, while a small bomb exploded inside a Karachi seminary on Monday, killing three children. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar reportedly told the meeting that either the talks needed to end successfully or then be taken to their logical conclusion, a statement that appears to highlight the government’s dwindling patience with the terrorists. Formalising an agenda shows the government is hardening its stance and that the faux-negotiations may soon end. That the government showed any patience at all is remarkable. While it began the process by trying to explore what grounds could be used as a basis for talks, the terrorists began by executing 23 kidnapped Frontier Constabulary personnel and bombing a police bus in Karachi. This confirmed the analysis of many commentators who said that the militant organisation is too committed to violence and its members too brainwashed by their brutal ideology to negotiate with a state they want to destroy and with people they want to kill. The military also believe the terrorists cannot be negotiated with, though they have patiently waited for the government to learn this for itself. After decades spent creating these groups, the military should know. 

Further confirmation of the terrorists’ commitment to mass murder as a political tool is found in a letter sent by TTP Mohmand commander Omar Khaled Khorasani to the chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Sirajul Haq. The terrorist reportedly congratulated Mr Haq on his election to the party leadership and said that while the two organisations share a common ideology and goal, his organisation is committed to armed struggle and believes said ideology can only be imposed by force. It should be noted that Khorasani’s chapter of the terrorist organisation claimed responsibility for assassinating police counter-terrorism expert SHO Rafiq Tanoli in Karachi four days ago. Certainly, the JI and other religious parties share beliefs with the terrorists. Some commentators call them the ‘soft face’ of terrorists in the political mainstream. As a political party acceptable to the terrorists — and given their consistent failure at the polls — the JI has a vested interest in negotiations continuing. The terrorist ideological agenda is similar to their own hence they may try to create a political furore around military action. Both the JI and the terrorists say the government needs to be sincere since negotiations have reached an impasse, with terrorists demanding the military withdraw from South Waziristan and the release of almost 1,000 prisoners they claim are non-combatants. The government has released more than 30 people with no reciprocation in the release of terrorist-held hostages such as the sons of the former PM of Pakistan and the late governor of Punjab, Ali Haider Gillani and Shahbaz Taseer respectively, who are confirmed non-combatants. A recent video of Gillani in chains and begging for his life was debunked by his father. However, fears for these hostages’ safety is very real.

JI chief Sirajul Haq recently said, “The failure of the talks will be a failure for the whole country,” conveniently ignoring the inability of the terrorists to control their own ‘splinter groups’. On Sunday, the JI member of the terrorists’ negotiating committee, Professor Ibrahim, claimed that a “real dialogue was yet to begin” and the negotiations should continue no matter how many times they fail. Mr Haq meanwhile hinted at the possibility of a coup in an apparent attempt to drive a wedge between the military and the government, who are steadily converging in their perception of how to deal with the terrorists. Failure in the talks is measured in lives taken by the terrorists, and this is something the government is waking up to. With the military confident it can defeat the terrorists, the waiting game appears to be drawing to a close.   *

Pakistan Army should be part of peace talks with TTP

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 Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq suggested on Friday that army officials should be included in the peace process so that talks between the government and Taliban could be fruitful.

Haq said that the both negotiating committees have no empowerment and they were working as messengers. The government and the army should give authority to the committees, he said, adding the failure (of the talks) will be a failure for Pakistan.

Haq also said that there was no other option except peace talks with Taliban for restoring peace and eliminating terrorism from Pakistan. He said that the national economy has been destroyed and more than 50 thousand people have been killed in the war against terrorism.

Haq suggested that the government should convene All Parties’ Conference for holding consultations if the peace process with Taliban was failed. He said that his party also wanted peace in Karachi, adding that talks with MQM could be held if it left the path of persecution.

Taliban Ceasefire Over!

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Only three days after Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan informed the nation that the ‘peace talks’ with the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) were about to enter a “comprehensive” phase, the TTP has announced that it will not be extending the ceasefire. Considering how much time and effort the good minister spends defending terrorists before the people they routinely kill, they really ought to be more considerate towards him. He says that Islamabad is a safe city, and they bomb the capital within a week. He claims that the peace talks are about to enter the next level, and they decide against extending the ceasefire. The terrorists really need to learn to spot a caring friend when they see one. They have only themselves to blame for destroying the credibility of a sympathizer in such a key position. Perhaps Mr Nisar should get his statements approved by the TTP so that he doesn’t embarrass himself every time he makes a claim.

The decision against extending the so-called truce was taken by the TTP shura which met somewhere in North Waziristan. Several reasons were cited for the verdict but it all can be summarized in a single, short sentence: do more, Government of Pakistan. This includes ceasing all actions against the terrorists across the country, releasing more alleged non-combatants and the establishment of a “peace zone” to name a few. However, the TTP spokesman was also kind and clever enough to add that the peace talks will proceed as normal despite the absence of a ceasefire. TTP negotiations committee member, Mr Ibrahim Khan, couldn’t agree more. Previously, Mr Ibrahim had argued that the most important factor for ensuring a successful dialogue process was the ceasefire between the government and the TTP. Now, he believes, it won’t affect the process at all. That is to say that the militants can go on and kill as many people as they like, the government would still be waiting for them at the coffee house. Mr Ibrahim and his colleagues might not have any qualms with such a scenario, and clearly they don’t, but the people on the receiving end might beg to differ.

This whole episode has shown us that there is no talking sense to the terrorists or their sympathizers. They have taken much, but given nothing in return so far. Give them the moon, and they will ask for the sun. They will go back on every word they have ever said as long as it allows them to keep the government engaged in a futile exercise. There is no point fighting willful obscurantism and malice with logic or common sense. It simply doesn’t work. But, there is no reason for despair. With the blessing of the Prime Minister, Nisar will fix everything.