President Hamid Karzai’s provocative two-day trip to India this week continues to resonate across the subcontinent. His announcement of an unprecedented strategic partnership with India has put Pakistan on edge, with potentially significant consequences for the region.


Why was President Karzai in India, and what were his objectives for the trip?

India has been a longstanding partner, not only of President Karzai, but of Afghanistan. India has certainly been the biggest regional donor to Afghanistan, and it’s been one of the Afghanistan’s most important global donors.

There’s a lot of antagonism towards Pakistan in Afghanistan, whereas India is held in high regard. So I think [the visit was motivated by Afghan] interest in understanding where India is vis-à-vis Pakistan in Afghanistan. What will be its long-term goals as the U.S. security umbrella continues retreating?

India is having a big debate about how important it is for India to remain in Afghanistan, with what objectives and at what cost.

During his trip, President Karzai signed a strategic partnership agreement with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh under which India will provide assistance to Afghanistan, including stepping up trade and training Afghan forces after U.S. forces leave in 2014. What’s the significance of this accord and why has it set off such fears in Pakistan?

Pakistan’s concerns with this partnership stem from their conviction that India will use its position in Afghanistan to the detriment of Pakistan.

The basic problem is that, according to my sources, who are not Pakistani – British diplomats, UN diplomats and increasingly Americans as well – India has been supporting the Baloch insurgents from Pakistan, [who are waging an ethnic nationalist rebellion in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan].

This is not the first time that India has done this. Balochistan has been a historical place of intervention for the Indians, so this is very disconcerting to the Pakistanis.

The Indians have also historically – although they haven’t made the official proclamations to this effect in recent history – supported Afghanistan in its irredentist claims on Pashtun parts of Pakistani territory. Pakistan is concerned about India using Afghanistan to deny Pakistan strategic depth.

Finally the Northern Alliance – and of course [assassinated former president Burhannurdin] Rabbani was a key figure in that – was aided and facilitated by the Indians, and they were the only rival to Pakistan’s proxy, the Taliban.

For all of these reasons, Pakistan sees this strategic partnership between India and Afghanistan as completely detrimental to its interests.

Are Pakistan’s fears well-founded?

The Americans would dismiss Pakistan’s fears, and so would Indians. They would basically say the Indians have no interest in destabilizing Pakistan, but that’s not entirely true. If that were true India would not be manipulating affairs in Balochistan to the varying levels that it is, and it’s certainly not at the levels that Pakistan claims.

So Pakistan does have concerns. Pakistan fears India and its partnership with the Americans: the American commitment to build it up as a global power; the Indian-American nuclear deal. … So the Pakistanis want to have the opportunity to deny India’s rise as a regional hegemon, much less a global power.

President Karzai has tried to do some damage control. He clarified the agreement wasn’t directed at Pakistan and said, ”Pakistan is a twin brother, India is a great friend. … The agreement that we signed yesterday with our friend will not affect our brother.” Will his words placate any concern in Pakistan, or are they merely lip service?

Pakistan will not be reassured by this. Karzai can say whatever he wants to say; it’s not going to reassure Pakistan.

Pres. Karzai also announced that Afghanistan would be calling off peace talks with the Taliban, saying, “We have decided not to talk to the Taliban because we do not know their address … therefore we have decided to talk to our brothers in Pakistan.” Has Karzai given up on negotiations with the Taliban?

I think he’s realized that rather than talking to the floor manager, he has to talk to the CEOs, and the CEOs are Pakistani intelligence and military officials in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

What does that mean for the peace process, and for the American military’s role in Afghanistan?

The American’s military role in Afghanistan is going to end no matter what, in terms of this high-intensity counterinsurgency initiative. There’s just a growing realization that there are limits to what the Americans can do given Pakistan’s intransigence on supporting the Afghan Taliban.

I think the best that the Americans can hope for is to put some modicum of stability and to try to put some pressure on Pakistan, but I think there is a growing realization that without some massive scaling down of the conditions for security transfer to the Afghans, the Americans won’t get out when they want to get out.

By get out, I don’t mean pull out and then go home. I mean scale down counterinsurgency activities in preference to a more normal relationship with Afghanistan, with the ability to conduct robust counterterror operations when needed.

Tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan have reached new heights since Rabbani’s assassination. Afghan officials say Pakistan’s intelligence agency was involved in the murder, a charge Pakistan denies. Is this an unusually low point in Afghan-Pakistan relations, and how long will these tensions likely last?

They’re going to last forever. They’ve never had good relations.

Afghanistan hasn’t handled this in a terribly sophisticated way either. Afghanistan has been really happy to use the Indian card to beat up on the Pakistanis, and this will not be in Afghanistan’s advantage, because no matter what India does, it’s not going to be able to insulate Afghanistan from what the Pakistanis are doing.

Soldiers dying in Afghanistan keeps us safe ?

Press TV – US President Barack Obama says there will be no quick or easy victory over the Taliban, noting that the war in Afghanistan is crucial in protecting Americans from terrorism.

Talking in a meeting of veterans in Arizona on Monday, Obama tried to step up the campaign in Afghanistan. “The insurgency in Afghanistan didn’t just happen overnight and we won’t defeat it overnight,” he said.

US administration is sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, therefore the success or failure of the mission of US forces in the war-torn country is crucial for its future plans in the region.

“This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget this is not a war of choice, this is a war of necessity,” he said. “If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans,” he said.

The remarks came a day after British Prime Minister Gordon Brown trying to ease the growing opposition to the Afghan war said the war in Afghanistan is a “sacrifice” made to make “Britain and the rest of the world” a safer place.

The two leaders however failed to elaborate the dire situation the war-ravaged nation has been facing ever since the US-led coalition forces invaded their country more than eight years ago.

According to UN figures, Afghan civilians remain the main victims of the notorious war which was launched to allegedly destroy the militancy and arrest militant leaders including Osama bin Laden.

This week’s Afghan presidential and provincial elections will be considered as a test of the new US strategy of providing security on the ground.

This is while, Taliban vowing to interrupt the election, have already fired rockets at the Afghan capital twice this month.

A rocket hit Tuesday the presidential palace in the center of Afghan capital, Kabul and a second struck the city’s police headquarters.

Also on Saturday, a suicide car bomb exploded outside the NATO military headquarters in the Afghan capital Kabul near the US embassy, killing seven people and injuring scores.

Published: October 6, 2009

IN Afghanistan’s Logar Province, just south of Kabul, the geopolitical future of Asia is becoming apparent: American troops are providing security for a Chinese state-owned company to exploit the Aynak copper reserves, which are worth tens of billions of dollars. While some of America’s NATO allies want to do as little as possible in the effort to stabilize Afghanistan, China has its eyes on some of world’s last untapped deposits of copper, iron, gold, uranium and precious gems, and is willing to take big risks in one of the most violent countries to secure them.

In Afghanistan, American and Chinese interests converge. By exploiting Afghanistan’s metal and mineral reserves, China can provide thousands of Afghans with jobs, thus generating tax revenues to help stabilize a tottering Kabul government. Just as America has a vision of a modestly stable Afghanistan that will no longer be a haven for extremists, China has a vision of Afghanistan as a secure conduit for roads and energy pipelines that will bring natural resources from the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. So if America defeats Al Qaeda and the irreconcilable elements of the Taliban, China’s geopolitical position will be enhanced.

This is not a paradox, since China need not be our future adversary. Indeed, combining forces with China in Afghanistan might even improve the relationship between Washington and Beijing. The problem is that while America is sacrificing its blood and treasure, the Chinese will reap the benefits. The whole direction of America’s military and diplomatic effort is toward an exit strategy, whereas the Chinese hope to stay and profit.

But what if America decides to leave, or to drastically reduce its footprint to a counterterrorism strategy focused mainly on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border? Then another scenario might play out. Kandahar and other areas will most likely fall to the Taliban, creating a truly lawless realm that wrecks China’s plans for an energy and commodities passageway through South Asia. It would also, of course, be a momentous moral victory achieved by radical Muslims who, having first defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, will then have triumphed over another superpower.

And the calculations get more complicated still: a withdrawal of any kind from Afghanistan before a stable government is in place would also hurt India, a critical if undeclared American ally, and increasingly a rival of China. Were the Taliban to retake Afghanistan, India would face a radical Islamistan stretching from its border with Pakistan deep into Central Asia. With the Taliban triumphant on Pakistan’s western border, jihadists there could direct their energies to the eastern border with India.

India would defeat Pakistan in a war, conventional or nuclear. But having to do so, or simply needing to face down a significantly greater jihadist threat next door, would divert India’s national energies away from further developing its economy and its navy, a development China would quietly welcome.

Bottom line: China will find a way to benefit no matter what the United States does in Afghanistan. But it probably benefits more if we stay and add troops to the fight. The same goes for Russia. Because of continuing unrest in the Islamic southern tier of the former Soviet Union, Moscow has an interest in America stabilizing Afghanistan (though it would take a certain psychological pleasure from a humiliating American withdrawal).

In nuts-and-bolts terms, if we stay in Afghanistan and eventually succeed, other countries will benefit more than we will. China, India and Russia are all Asian powers, geographically proximate to Afghanistan and better able, therefore, to garner practical advantages from any stability our armed forces would make possible.

Everyone keeps saying that America is not an empire, but our military finds itself in the sort of situation that was mighty familiar to empires like that of ancient Rome and 19th-century Britain: struggling in a far-off corner of the world to exact revenge, to put down the fires of rebellion, and to restore civilized order. Meanwhile, other rising and resurgent powers wait patiently in the wings, free-riding on the public good we offer. This is exactly how an empire declines, by allowing others to take advantage of its own exertions.

Of course, one could make an excellent case that an ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan is precisely what would lead to our decline, by demoralizing our military, signaling to our friends worldwide that we cannot be counted on and demonstrating that our enemies have greater resolve than we do. That is why we have no choice in Afghanistan but to add troops and continue to fight.

But as much as we hone our counterinsurgency skills and develop assets for the “long war,” history would suggest that over time we can more easily preserve our standing in the world by using naval and air power from a distance when intervening abroad. Afghanistan should be the very last place where we are a land-based meddler, caught up in internal Islamic conflict, helping the strategic ambitions of the Chinese and others.

Robert D. Kaplan is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a correspondent for The Atlantic.

Courtesy: New York Times

THE United States has initiated anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations into Chinese-made steel pipes that could lead to duties exceeding 100 percent.

The move could increase trade tensions between the two countries as it comes less than a month after US President Barack Obama decided to slap punitive tariffs on Chinese tires. The US also imposed preliminary duties on Chinese-made steel pipes used to transport oil last month.

The US Commerce Department said late on Wednesday that the investigation stemmed from a petition from companies including United States Steel Corp, V&M Star LP, TMK IPSCO and the United Steelworkers union.

The petitioners asked for a 98.37 percent anti-dumping duty to counter competition from China’s steel pipes, alleging the products are sold in the US at unfairly low prices. They also requested additional countervailing tariffs to offset alleged Chinese government subsidies.

Dumping occurs when a company sells its products in another country for below the cost of production.

The products involved in the latest case include seamless carbon and alloy steel pipes used to carry water, steam, oil products and natural gas.

Pipes have been the main targets of foreign investigations into Chinese steel products. Early this week in a final ruling, the Europe Union imposed anti-dumping tariffs on some Chinese seamless steel pipes after concluding that these imports might cause material injury or threat to local industry.

The China Iron and Steel Association, which represents domestic mills, said exports of Chinese-made seamless steel pipes to the EU fell sharply since the EU’s investigation, decreasing 71 percent in volume in the January-August period from a year earlier and down 65 percent in value.

“It’s unlikely that China sells pipe products below cost,” said Mi Yunji, an analyst at Mysteel consultancy. “Prices are higher for exports than for the domestic market. Overseas demand is also not good right now.”

“I think the main pressure for these anti-dumping and anti-subsidy charges comes from labor unions in those foreign companies.”

These new challenges will weigh heavily on Chinese manufacturers, which already suffer from overcapacity. Steel pipes generate higher value than other steel products and account for a big portion of exports, said a domestic steel official.

The latest US investigation will have to win support from the US International Trade Commission by early November to proceed. If the commission approves it, the Commerce Department will make a preliminary decision on anti-dumping duties in December and countervailing duties in February.

Wang Feng, an analyst at Guotai Jun’an Securities Co, said cases of this kind will dampen business confidence among Chinese traders and foreign investors.

US forces have withdrawn from a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan following last week’s major battle there with the Taliban, NATO-led forces said today in Kabul.

The pullout was announced before the October 3 attack, but the assault has drawn fresh attention to a new US strategy to move troops out of remote areas and focus more on populated districts.

“It is the intent of the ISAF (NATO-led force) commander, US Army General Stanley McChrystal, to place an emphasis on protecting the people of Afghanistan by focusing on more populated areas,” the NATO-led force said in a statement.

It said troops and equipment had been moved from the outpost in the Kamdesh district of northeastern Nuristan Province to other locations in eastern Afghanistan.

In the deadliest attack for US forces since a July 2008 battle in nearby Kunar, eight US soldiers were killed when Taliban fighters stormed remote outposts near the Pakistan border last week. At least two Afghan troops died in the firefight.

NATO forces said 100 insurgents were killed.

In the past, when US troops have left areas in dispute, the Taliban have launched attacks to display strength and lay claim to them.

This year has become by far the deadliest for Western forces in the eight-year war that followed the removal of the Taliban from power. More than 400 Western troops have died so far, more than in the entire period from 2001-05.

There are now more than 100,000 Western forces serving in Afghanistan, two-thirds of them American. McChrystal has submitted a request for tens of thousands more, arguing that without them he cannot implement his new strategy and the war will probably be lost

By Shaheen Sehbai

ISLAMABAD: Intense search has begun in political and media circles to find out who is the father of the Pakistan Army and ISI-specific conditions in the Kerry-Lugar Bill, which ultimately led to the assertive statement issued by the 122nd corps commanders’ meeting on Wednesday. But the search will not be too difficult.

All fingers point to the Pakistani lobbyists in Washington who were hired by the Pakistan Embassy after thePPP government came into power in 2008. These lobbyists, including Mark A Siegel and Cassidy and Associates, were supposed to work for Pakistan and were paid million of dollars, but they were actually lobbying against Pakistan and were trying to get anti-Pakistan conditions inserted in the Kerry-Lugar Bill.

Experts, who know Washington, say the lobbyists do only what their client tells them. In the case of the Kerry-Lugar Bill, the client has been the Pakistan Embassy, so the buck will have to stop at the Pakistani mission in Washington DC.

But according to one expert, the details of all these Army-specific conditions were spelled out in a well-publicised book published by a Pakistani scholar-cum-journalist-cum-diplomat, way back in January 2006.

The language in which the scholar, Husain Haqqani, now Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington and the main proponent of the Kerry-Lugar Bill, had urged Washington to put these conditions on Pakistan would shock everyone, when read in today’s context.

For instance, the book ëPakistan between Mosque and Militaryí states categorically that “the United States must use its aid as a lever to influence Pakistan’s domestic policies.” The book states: “Washington should no longer condone the Pakistani military’s support of Islamic militants, its use of its intelligence apparatus for controlling domestic politics, and its refusal to cede power to a constitutional democratic government.”

At another place the book says: “Because Washington has attached a few conditions to US aid, the spending patterns of Pakistan’s government have not changed significantly. The country’s military spending continues to increase…”

On pages 327 to 329, Haqqani says: “Unlike governments in other Muslim countries like Egypt and Turkey, Pakistan’s government – particularly its military – has encouraged political and radical Islam, which otherwise has a relatively narrow base of support. Democratic consensus on limiting or reversing Islamisation would gradually roll back the Islamist influence in Pakistani public life. Islamists would maintain their role as a minority pressure group representing a particular point of view, but they would stop wielding their current disproportionate influence over the country’s overall direction.

“The United States can help contain the Islamists’ influence by demanding reform of those aspects of Pakistan’s governance that involve the military and security services. Until now, the United States has harshly berated corrupt or ineffective Pakistani politicians but has only mildly criticised the military’s meddling. Between 1988 and 1999, when civilians ostensibly governed Pakistan, US officials routinely criticised the civilians’ conduct but refrained from commenting on the negative role of the military and the intelligence services despite overwhelming evidence of that role. ISI manipulation of the 1988, 1990, and 1997 elections went unnoticed publicly by the United States while the Pakistan military’s recitation of politicians’ failings was generally accepted without acknowledging the impacts of limits set for the politicians by the military. The United States appears to accept the Pakistani military’s falsified narrative of Pakistan’s recent history, at least in public. It is often assumed that the military’s intervention in politics is motivated by its own concern over national security and the incompetence of politicians. That the military might be a contributor to political incompetence and its desire to control national security policies might be a function of its pursuit of domestic political power are hardly ever taken into account.

“Washington should no longer condone the Pakistani military’s support of Islamic militants, its use of its intelligence apparatus for controlling domestic politics, and its refusal to cede power to a constitutional democratic government. As an aid donor, Washington has become one of Pakistan’s most important benefactors, but a large part of US economic assistance since September 11, 2001 has been used to pay down Pakistan’s foreign debt. Because Washington has attached a few conditions to US aid, the spending patterns of Pakistan’s government have not changed significantly. The country’s military spending continues to increase, and spending for social services is well below the level required to improve living conditions for ordinary Pakistanis. The United States must use its aid as a lever to influence Pakistan’s domestic policies. Even though Musharraf’s selective cooperation in hunting down Al-Qaeda terrorists is a positive development, Washington must not ignore Pakistan’s state sponsorship of Islamist militants, its pursuit of nuclear weapons and missiles at the expense of education and healthcare, and its refusal to democratise; each of these issues is directly linked to the future of Islamic radicalism.

“The United States clearly has a few good short-term policy options in relation to Pakistan. American policymakers should endeavour to recognise the failings of their past policies and avoid repeating their mistakes. The United State has sought short-term gains from its relationship with Pakistan, inadvertently accentuating that country’s problems in the process. Pakistan’s civil and military elite, on the other hand, must understand how their three-part paradigm for state and nation building has led Pakistan from one disaster to the next. Pakistan was created in a hurry and without giving detailed thought to various aspects of national and state building. Perhaps it is time to rectify that mistake by taking a long-term view. Both Pakistan’s elite and their US benefactors would have to participate in transforming Pakistan into a functional, rather than ideological, state.”

Once these considered suggestions and proposals made by the current Pakistan ambassador are analysed in today’s context, there will be few left who would continue to search for the source of the insulting conditions which the Kerry-Lugar Bill has imposed on Pakistan.

Courtesy: The News

IRAN’S foreign minister said yesterday that the United States may have had a role in the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, state TV reported.

Scientist Shahram Amiri vanished during a pilgrimage to the Saudi kingdom in late May, Iranian authorities have said. Relatives quoted in Iranian media have said Amiri researches medical uses of nuclear technology at a Tehran university.

His disappearance came months before the revelation of a second uranium enrichment facility that Iran has been building near the city of Qom, raising speculation that Amiri may have given the West information on it or other parts of the nuclear program. Relatives said Amiri was not involved in the broader nuclear program beyond his research.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said yesterday that “we have evidence of a US role in disappearance of the Iranian national … in Saudi Arabia. … There is evidence to suggest the United States was involved,” according to Press TV, the state-run English-language channel.