Friday, March 19, 2010

Apparently Pakistan Can't Do Anything Right

In a BBC interview, the former UN envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide "has strongly criticised Pakistan's recent arrest of high-ranking Taliban leaders" in an interview with the BBC. Mr. Eide says that preliminary talks (talks about talks) were taking place between the U.N. and Taliban leaders in Dubai and elsewhere but these had now become harder because "[t]he Pakistanis did not play the role that they should have played.... They must have known who they were, what kind of role they were playing, and you see the result today."

Okay, so let me get this straight: Pakistan went after the bad guys and the UN's highest representative says that its not playing ball. When Pakistan was not going after the bad guys, the whole world was going bananas. This is absurd. I wonder what role the U.N. wants Pakistan to play? In any case, the U.S. (y'know the country that invaded Afghanistan and has thousands of troops there) seems happy with Pakistan's role. So why should we care about what the U.N. thinks, clearly the U.S. doesn't which makes the U.N.'s entire exercise rather pointless.

And when the BBC asked Mr. Eide "how high up his contacts were, Mr Eide said: "We met senior figures in the Taliban leadership and we also met people who have the authority of the Quetta Shura to engage in that kind of discussion."

That's right, that's the Quetta Shura - as in the despicable militants based within Pakistan who are actively encouraging violence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Did they consider asking the Quetta Shura to just leave Pakistan and go back home? Did they maybe consider that the Shura's presence in Quetta alludes to a deal with the Pakistan's security establishment, and hence indicative of a dynamic not covered within the framework of UN negotiations?

I've never been a fan of John Bolton but maybe he was on to something, the U.N. just doesn't get it. And Bolton was speaking about a U.N. headed by Kofi Annan and not the largely incompetent Ban Ki-moon.


Raza said...

Yes but it is conceivable that the military would want to sabotage these sort of talks, right? A warring Afghanistan kinda suits us, and we'd want any deal to be made through us, so that it may satisfy our strategic depth fetish.
Maybe I simply can't believe that our army wouldn't be rounding up these guys without some dickhead ulterior motive.

Having said that, who the FUCK ever asked the UN to get involved? They have zero negotiating power, zero credibility, zero leverage with any of the actors involved. Like you said, if Amreeka isn't bothered, who cares what the UN thinks? (wow, i just realized what sad world we live in).

Smci said...

It's not just the U.N., Karzai was peeved about the arrests too.

Apparently the reason that Aide is speaking out is because he sees the Pak Establishment as a bunch of conniving duplicitous turds.

While the Americans and Karzai have come to terms with this fact, Aide and the U.N. obviously haven’t.

You’re absolutely truthful in pointing out the absurdity of first asking for the Afghan Taliban to be rounded up, and then complaining when they are actually rounded up. On the face of it, it seems Pakistan can do no right by the U.N.

But the argument remains… “the reason we [Karzai Government and UN] went through the painstaking process of arranging negotiations with the Quetta Shura and the likes of Baradar was because Pakistan so staunchly protected and supported them. To the point where they were a significant player in any future settlement for Afghanistan. Now that we seem to be making progress, you pull the rug out from under us?”

It’s class-A chalaaki on our part. Nothing else.

We Pakistanis want peace on our terms, and the arrest of Baradar is a warning shot for any Taliban leader that may be getting the ill-founded notion of a “separately negotiated peace,” without considering the Pak Establishment’s interests - as dictated to them by their ISI handlers.

The Americans, in this extremely rare instance seem to be the ones that know exactly what they’re doing. Ostensibly, they’ve encouraged the Dubai talks knowing full well that Pakistan did not approve a peace that didn’t suit its future goals. And the US was prepared for the consequences. To them, either (1) the talks succeed and Pakistan gets left sitting on the sidelines, or (2) Pakistan gets pissed and starts rounding up senior Afghan Taliban members that were “talked into talking.” Either way, at the end of the day we get a substantially neutralized Taliban. It’s a “pick your poison” kind of scenario.

It’d be hilarious when enough people in the right places figure all this out and Baradar and some other significant field commanders manage to escape from custody, which, you know, isn’t entirely unprecedented in Pakistan’s history.

Jaydev said...

America doesnt care if Saudis-Afghans do a deal with Taliban or Pakistanis do the long as Afghanistan in the post-exit scenario dont become haven for attack against Western countries.
If you notice..the operation was done by US-ISI combine..that means..US also wanted to put Karzai in his place for his independent streak. Since, Pak took the lead and foiled a Saudi-UAE-Afghan joint Taliban reconciliation plan without involving ISI/Pak Army, India went to Saudis with great timing to drive a wedge between Saudis and Pakistanis. With Iran cutting a deal with Pakistan about Taliban..
India didnt have much of a choice and go to Saudi Arabia's lap. Very interesting developments.

Checkmark P. said...

Your outrage dims my regard for your insights into geopolitik.

We never git it, do we? It will take an aeon for us to be taken as doing anything right, having done so wrong for so long. And that too if we begin getting it right this instant, which seems very unlikely.

It's not the UN. It's called The World Opinion -- and it pays to learn it from perspectives other than those of our 'expert' TV anchors and their 10-KM radius.

XYZ said...

Ahsan, you are right in being pissed off that apparently we are in a 'heads they win and tails we lose' kind of scenario with regards to international perception about our involvement in Afghanistan.

There is enough murky water around the Biradar arrest to make what Kai Eide says a bit naive, to put it mildly. If anything, his ire is misdirected. According to the Americans, Biradar was picked up on their pointation. And when Holbrooke was confronted with conspiracy theories about Pakistan's motives, his response was along the lines of 'I know more than I am liberty to divulge and whatever I know of the circumstances surrounding Mullah Biradar's arrest, negates those conspiracy theories completely.' If anything, it seems that it was the US, not Pakistan, throwing a spanner in the UN works.

There is also a strong theory that Biradar and his friends were picked up to bring them into protective custody, to protect them from the hawks around them who were unhappy with their negotiations. According to Rahimullah Yousufzai's info, Biradar had fallen out with Mullah Omar a while back and therefore, instead of leading the fight in Helmand, had fled to refuge in Pakistan.

I don't know which of these theories is true and if the first one is, what the US's motivations for disrupting such negotiations would be. I also don't doubt for a moment that the Pak military establishment would like the resolution of Afghanistan's war on its terms - which state involved wouldn't! - but I think the knee-jerk reaction of spinning conspiracy theories about Pakistan's ulterior motives before all the facts are clear and tricky questions answered, is getting a bit ridiculous.

Jaydev said...

Totally agree with Cafe Pyala..
that US took the lead. Apparently, US was peeved that negotiators are getting ahead of themselves..since US want to "change reality on the ground" before splitting mercenaries from smaller core of ideological fanatics.Pak too was happy to oblige to throw spanner on works in which it was not included. Karzai has rightly deduced that US-NATO wants to be in Afghanistan for the ability to maneuver Great Game in Central Asia besides terrorism therefore his urgency for negotiated settlement. Very hard to decipher lack of celebration in Western circles abt take-down of a huge chunk of Afghan Taliban leadership in last month in back-2-back arrests.

john said...

"You’re absolutely truthful in pointing out the absurdity of first asking for the Afghan Taliban to be rounded up, and then complaining when they are actually rounded up. On the face of it, it seems Pakistan can do no right by the U.N."

Three points.

First, we don't know enough about the Biradar arrest to draw many of these conclusions. There is perfectly contradictory evidence a to whether it was a joint operation, as to whether it was targeted or an accident etc.

Second, that the US has not expressed opposition doesn't mean its not opposed. IN March 2009, the NYT recorded "evidence that ISI operatives meet regularly with Taliban commanders to discuss whether to intensify or scale back violence before the Afghan elections". Now, did you hear the US complain about that? Of course not, because it hardly does them any good to do so. Their bullying can only go so far before it gets counterproductive. So to suggest the absence of a US response indicates anything seems off the mark, to me.

Third, as smci concisely point out, the problem is that this episode is drenched with cynicism. It's disingenuous to say that all governments are cynical because Pakistan's security establishment appears to have taken this to a new level.

Of course it's good to arrest senior insurgent leaders who are joined at the hip with international terrorists. But does one have to do it precisely at the point of negotiations, precisely when a neighboring government is engaged in negotiations with that individual? It is a little silly to say this is "Absurd" and that Pakistan can do no right: you must be aware that there are so many ways in which it is still obstructing anti-Taliban efforts (not to mention efforts against other armed groups). I am not just talking about the army not assaulting location X or area Y, that is understandable from a tactical point of view (though, as the past shows, not necessarily prudent). The reactions of US officials to the Biradar capture demonstrates the scale of US - not UN - skepticism that Pakistan is "doing right".

Smci said...

1st point: Agreed. Only to add that there likely never will be enough credible information to figure out precisely what happened here.

2nd point: It’s not the absence of the response, it’s the statements of the DG-ISI and other senior administrators attesting that the arrests were of the “joint” variety. The NY Times and others ran reports after the arrests openly referring to this as a joint US-Pak effort. So obviously the US was in favor of it. My hunch is that the US was prepared for either track; Dubai, or the arrests.

3rd point: Obviously I agree. And would just add that a healthy smidgen on cynicism when it comes to politics, and particularly when it comes to war and intel operations, is not only virtuous, but in Pakistan’s case, it’s just common sense.

My intent [and I’m not sure if you were referring to my use or AKS’ original use] was actually the opposite of calling it absurd. That’s why I ended with “On the face of it…” Because while superficially it may seem absurd, the indignation about the arrests is understandable given certain underlying, albeit perhaps unfounded, reading of the event surrounding the arrests.

Tilsim said...


I really appreciated your reasoned analysis of what is possibly going on in all these moves, particularly it's implications for the US. You must be a master at Chess!

Strikes me, on the face of it, that it's a lose-lose for Taliban (but I am not so good at Chess :)).

Mansoor Khalid said...

Statements like these represent the clash or miss-communication at the highest level. On one side the world is acknowledging Pakistan’s efforts in arresting the key Taliban leaders and a statement from the representative of an international body is indeed saddening.

Wyse Guy said...

Hey Five Rupees,

How about an opinion on this whole constitutional package/increase-provincial-autonomy-thingy that just got passed?

Will it help the situation in Balochistan?

Or will the province remain under the de-facto military/intelligence occupation it still suffers?

The lack of overt moaning from Nationalist quarters makes me lean towards the former.

john said...

@smci - I was referring to AKS' original usage. Just to reiterate, I disagree with the optimistic readings and I think much of the initial posturing e.g. by Bruce Riedel in the NYT was cack-handed and premature.

See this typically frank policy brief by Ashley Tellis: (there is a PDF on the page).

@ Mansoor Khalid - I think you miss the point rather.

Anonymous said...


Smci said...


Thanks a lot for the Carnegie link bro. I haven't been able to watch the entire event yet but just perusing over the pdf file was fascinating.

Though I do have to say, epistemologically speaking, I would totally understand why some of those that lean towards sympathy for Pakistan may have grave reservations about Tellis' assertions.

I mean for starters she thanks two Indians for discussions leading to the article. And then in citation #13 she cites one of those Indian's as follows;

"I am grateful to B. Raman, formerly additional secretary, cabinet secretariat, government of
India, for discussing Pakistan’s actions surrounding the Beradar arrest and for the history of
previous ISI actions against the Afghan Taliban. The U.S. intercept of recent Taliban
communications leading up to Beradar’s arrest are discussed in “U.S.-Pakistan Cooperation
Has Led to Capture of Afghan Taliban Insurgents.”

This is all fine, but the particular claim she's making using this citation is rather damning.

But on the whole, an interesting read none-the-less.

john said...

I agree that a relying on a former Indian intelligence official as a source is in one respect troubling; and Tellis (it's a "he" btw) was a key individual in the Bush administration behind the India nuclear deal.

But as much as you can bear in mind individuals' likely leanings and prejudices, I think (1) the other evidence and (2) Pakistan's consistent prior behavior both point to a combination of accident and spoiler-playing.

One question is: how would we know a true Pakistani shift when we see it? I think this question is easier to answer from an Indian angle re: LET than it is re: Pakistan and the Taliban. Cracking down on the LET would be a more obvious move. Cracking down on all elements of the Taliban in a way consonant with a strategy employed by Afghanistan and the US, is harder to observe. It's an interesting and important question. But I do think we can lay it aside for now.

Smci said...

I don't know man, it's all confusing as hell at this point.

The US has made gestures to Pakistan in response to the arrests (regardless of what those really mean) which indicate that the Administration sees a situation post-withdrawl that may be to Pakistan's liking.

At the same time, the President just visits Kabul where the articles above the fold of every major newspaper say that he lampooned Karzai over corruption, ill-cooperation and what not. Karzai ofcourse being seen more favorably by the Indians.

Perhaps the Americans have co-opted those Afghans that have mastered the art of playing India and Pakistan off of one and other in order to extract money, or in this case, cooperation.

It's always frustrating to follow this region of the world because secrecy, backroom dealing, and hyper-assymetric competition are the norms, and transparent diplomacy that fits neatly into game theory or the umpteen variants of International Relations '-isms' is non-existent.

The sad truth (to me atleast) is that we're essentially no different than the lunatic Hamidite fringe, because no one of us is present when all these decisions are being made... usually completely devoid of long-term logic, consideration of consequences, and to a much lesser extent, morality.

Amna Zaman said...

Its not about Pakistan. It is more or less about the people of this country. Unless and until the masses are not active enough the system can not be changed and the system along with the cancer of extremism will keep on manipulating us guys!!