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Entries Tagged as 'War on Terror'

Why Obama is Quiet About Al-Awlaki

David Frum September 30th, 2011 at 2:14 pm 220 Comments

Michael Tomasky asks, “Why doesn’t President Obama take more credit for killing the al-Qaeda leadership?”

Tomasky is normally a tough-minded observer of all points of the political compass, but on this occasion he has sunk much too deep into liberal self-regard.

Imagine if the Bush administration had killed bin Laden, under circumstances as daring as the ones under which he actually was put on ice by the Obama administration. Imagine what that week would have been like. On Fox News, we’d have been subjected to endless Soviet-style encomia to our heroic leader. What would the administration itself have done? I’ll concede the 10 or 15 percent chance they’d have surprised us and played it humbly. But in all likelihood, Bush and Cheney and Rummy and Condi would have dashed around the country making speeches at martial events, alternated (of course) with bathetic public ceremonies in the presence of some of the very 9/11 widows whom the Bushies, in other moments, aspersed for wanting things like an honest commission investigation into how 9/11 happened in the first place.

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No Gratitude for Disasters Prevented

David Frum September 12th, 2011 at 12:00 pm 49 Comments

In my column for CNN, I discuss heroes who have prevented disasters yet go unremembered:

Imagine that some member of Congress back in the 1990s had devoted himself or herself to toughening America against terrorism. He or she had introduced legislation to require airlines to harden their cockpit doors. After years of work, he or she at last prevailed and the new law went into effect sometime in early 2000. The 9/11 plot would have been thwarted without any American ever knowing that the plot had existed.

Question: Would we now remember that imaginary member of Congress as a person of wisdom and foresight who averted a national disaster?

Hardly. In a world in which 9/11 never happened, the people who prevented it would have gone unremembered and unthanked. Or worse. It’s very possible that they would have been laughed at as tedious people who invested ridiculous amounts of energy against a probably imaginary threat — the way, say, some laughed at the people who solved the Y2K problem about that same time.

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Can Conservatives Accept Success in Fighting Terror?

June 29th, 2011 at 11:21 am 15 Comments

America is winning the War on Terror.  At least by the most visible metrics, here that is.  As David Frum wrote for FrumForum, cheap the death of Osama bin Laden was the culmination of a decade in which the leadership of Al-Qaeda has been decimated by Predator drones and Islamic terrorism in general has collapsed in complexity, scope, and ambition.

But some conservatives seem reluctant to accept the gains that they, themselves, fought so hard to achieve.  Instead, they are desperately grasping for new enemies to fight.

I visited the Heritage Foundation on June 28th to watch Catherine Herridge of Fox News promote her new book, The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al-Qaeda’s American Recruits.  What I saw from Herridge and the audience was a voracious appetite for claims of Muslim American subversion tinged with a faint, but troubling willingness to engage in 9/11 conspiracy speculation.

The lion’s share of Herridge’s talk was devoted to the activities of Anwar al-Aulaqi, the New Mexico-born civil engineering student turned radical Al-Qaeda cleric. Aulaqi is one of the most active radical Muslim clerics in the Middle East.  He releases footage of his extremist sermons on a regular basis and is currently allied with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. The U.S. government has placed Aulaqi on its list of global terrorists to be killed without trial.

But Herridge believes that the government is doing too little too late.  She explained that the intelligence community overlooked his role in the 9/11 attacks and is now trying to cover up their failure to address his radicalization.  In one instance, she said, Aulaqi was taken into custody only to be released without charge.  “This event is like a bomb waiting to be triggered.  I’ve spoken to people on the Hill about this.  I have spoken to people within the government about this, and it’s just what I call ‘crickets,’ radio silence,” Herridge said.

Herridge uses a somewhat fluid standard of proof for her charges, one that ranges from official arrest warrants to the presence of “too many coincidences.”  Nonetheless, she held Aulaqi up as an example of “Al-Qaeda 2.0,” a social media-savvy, largely American-born incarnation of global jihad. “There always seem to be his fingerprints on these plots,” she said.  According to Herridge, these new terrorists are the “digital jihadist Facebook friends from hell.”

On some level, this is true.  There are definitely American Muslims being radicalized and social media does contribute to those instances.  But the important question is this: With the figurehead of global jihad resting at the bottom of the Arabian Sea and Islamic terrorism on the retreat, what type of threat do disjointed and largely incompetent would-be terrorists actually pose?

Well, Herridge disagrees with the premise of the question. According to her, the recent ineptitude of Islamic terrorism is not a triumph of our national security apparatus, but a tactical shift of which we must be especially wary.  “There has been a shift.  Part of that has been by design because we’ve become better at pulling a string and unraveling these things, but it doesn’t make them less important,” she told FrumForum. And the small scale of recent attacks is not the only worrisome terrorist strategy:  “A failed plot is good news for them too.  It gets them a lot of publicity and it helps them raise a lot of money,” she said.  Apparently, the terrorists benefit even when we foil their schemes.  Is there any way to beat these guys?

Herridge’s illusion of an inexhaustible, ever-regrouping global jihad is troubling.  As a nation we have sacrificed immensely to combat terrorism. Our fight has consumed vast amounts of blood and treasure and eroded our conception of liberty at home. Necessary as it may have been at one point, does anybody want to live under the Patriot Act forever?  If we cannot acknowledge progress and eventually victory, we will continue paying this price indefinitely.  Now, when we finally have Islamic terrorism on its heels, we cannot afford to ignore our own success.

Canada’s Troops Wrap Up Afghan Mission

June 4th, 2011 at 7:06 am 9 Comments

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is putting a brave face on Canada’s withdrawal from Afghanistan – or if not exactly withdrawal, buy cialis its changing role in that part of the world.

His surprise visit to Kandahar last week, after the G8 summit meetings in Deauville, was the right thing to do. It gave him a chance to see for himself and to pay tribute to soldiers for a thankless job well done — and to reinforce the theme that Canada really is pulling back.

Harper calling the Canadian mission “a great success” is a fair assessment, even though the “war” itself has really not changed much in Afghanistan.

When foreign soldiers have gone, likely the country will sink back into what it was, despite new aid programs and the framework of a national army and police force.

The real benefit of our army’s nine years in the country – and 156 soldiers killed – is the revival (or resuscitation) of the Canadian army as an effective military force, capable of anything that’s asked of it.

In what could be called the “years of darkness” for our military – the Trudeau years and beyond – UN “peacekeeping” was increasingly the key function of the army. In some ways it was almost the only function. The army did it well, but at cost to the primary role of being combat-ready — trained to fight, if necessary.

As has been said before, a combat-trained army in a peacekeeping role is like using a fire hose to water the garden where, in a war, an army trained for only peacekeeping, is a garden hose used to fight a fire.

And a country with an ineffective military gets little respect on the international stage  — witness Canada, for years considered friendly and benign but with little real clout or influence.

Since Afghanistan, and the professionalism and effectiveness of our relatively small battle group there (2,500 bodies), Canada’s stature has risen accordingly.

Some, who pay attention to such things, consider Canada as having the best small army in the world. No, we are not the U.S. or Britain with all the bells and whistles of big armies, but Canadians have proven to be the equal of any and better than most. Ask the Taliban.

Anyway, by going to Kandahar with Defense Minister Peter Mackay and Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Prime Minister Harper not only has symbolically thanked the soldiers, but given indication that he has no intention of letting our military wither on the vine, as has happened when past military missions ended.

Still, for politicians, words and deeds do not necessarily mesh.

It’s inevitable that after Afghanistan the military budget will be trimmed, if not chopped. The $16 billion cost for 65 F-35 strike aircraft is rising every day, and debate continues as to whether this is the best use of of limited defense dollars.

Afghanistan has made our soldiers popular at home – something unusual for Canadian soldiers, who were conditioned to being ignored in the post-WWII era.

Canadians appreciate their soldiers and are proud of them. With good reason. This has benefited the Harper government, which gambled that the military had more support among Canadians than elites and lib-lefters thought.

Canadian soldiers are not accustomed to seeing their PM in the field, so the gesture bodes well for the military – and the Harper government.

Pakistan Cozies Up to China

June 3rd, 2011 at 11:10 am 7 Comments

Thinking “outside-the-box” (as they say) is one of the more difficult – and valuable – functions of those in charge of countries, and armies or businesses.

A great example of thinking outside the box is one cited by retired Maj. Gen. Lew MacKenzie (who, coincidentally, specializes is such thinking). In WWII, when bomber command was suffering horrendous losses, scientists and exerts were summoned to determine how better to protect bombers from enemy fire.

All returning bombers from raids over Germany were examined as to where they’d been hit by anti-aircraft fire. Onionskin overlays showed massive hits common to all returning aircraft. Overlays also showed great white spaces on the aircraft where no hits had been registered.

Air Force types immediately urged reinforcing the parts of bombers that had received heavy fire, while “outside-the-box” thinkers urged reinforcing those areas of returning bombers that received no hits.

The thinking was it was bombers that were hit in areas that didn’t show on the returning bombers that were the casualties. When those areas were reinforced, the casualty rate of aircraft dropped accordingly.

But for this outside-the-box thinking, bombers would have been reinforced on areas that showed considerable damage when they returned.

Thinking outside the box was prevalent in the U.S. Civil War, when non-military people became soldiers and were not conditioned to think along conventional lines. Instead they devised tactics that were not necessarily according to the book.

For example, John Mosby’s irregular cavalry raided at night and disbanded by day, and were never caught by Union soldiers. Also, Mosby (and Nathan Bedford Forest) rejected the sword or sabre as a cavalry weapons, and adopted the newly invented revolver as more effective.

Right now, in the post-Osama bin Laden days, the United States is in a quandary about what to do about Pakistan –  always viewed as a necessary but unreliable and unstable ally.

This reality was intensified after the assassination of bin Laden, and the U.S. learned that for at least five years he had been living in relative comfort in Abbottabad, near a military camp and not in a Himalayan mountain cave.

This reinforced America’s concerns that its “ally” was playing a double-game, and that an alarming segment of Pakistan’s politicians, army and intelligence service was in cahoots with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Again, the question arose for the U.S. of how it should deal with Pakistan, other than its conventional mixture of warnings, threats, pandering and financing to persuade it to crack down on al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Pakistan, embarrassed by the bin Laden escapade, suddenly has become more open to China helping it, probably to make the U.S. more compliant and generous.

Pakistan has “invited” China to build a naval base at Gwadar, on the Indian Ocean, near the mouth of the Persian Gulf. China had already invested close to $300 million in the port. In making the announcement, Pakistani PM Yousuf Gilani called China Pakistan’s “best friend.”

As well, Gilani has visited Beijing to close a deal for 50 multi-role JF-17 Thunder jets to augment its aging fleet of some 40 F-16 fighter jets acquired from the U.S. in the 1980s.

All this cozying up to China, has the U.S. uneasy, as well as India.

Concern is how to match or deflect China’s interest in Pakistan, and vice-versa. Conventional thinkers in the State Department and Pentagon, as well as in the White House, worry at the effect. Tenuous as relations are, how can they placate Pakistan as an unreliable ally yet offset China’s growing influence – and how much will it cost?

That’s the dilemma facing conventional thinking in foreign affairs.

“Outside-the-box” thinking might say: Don’t do anything. Let China and Pakistan do what they will. Each, inevitably, will be a pain in the neck for the other. Both regimes are devious, tricky, suspicious. Both are a pain in the neck, both are dangerous, neither is capable of trust.

From an America point of view, Pakistan has nothing the U.S. wants or needs: No oil, no resources, mostly mountains and 300 million Muslims, half of whom are potential jihadists.

If China thinks it is stealing a march on the Americans by expanding its influence in Pakistan — let it. One thing can be guaranteed – China doesn’t like Muslims. Look how it treats its Uighurs, who are Muslims but not jihadists, and there are only 8.5 million of them.

If China has trouble dealing with its Uighurs, look at the potential problems dealing with the interests of some 200 million Pakistani Muslims.

And look at potential problems Pakistan faces dealing with China, with no America as a counter-balance. Pakistan is a nuclear power. So is China. So is India. China is unlikely to be happy with a nuclear Pakistan threatening India, and vice-versa.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned, when the U.S. and NATO withdraw troops this year, Taliban infiltration from Pakistan is inevitable. The only unknown is how effective the Afghan National Army and security forces will be – the National Army and police force. Hopes are higher than expectations.

If the Taliban and al-Qaeda surge in Pakistan, let it become a problem for the Pakistani PM’s newest “best friend” – China.

China’s economic well-being and future is so interlocked with the U.S. and Western developed countries, that the last thing it wants is destabilization. China wants to win, it plans ahead, thinks long term gain rather than short profit. And it has patience.

Pakistan is nothing but trouble for whoever depends on it.

So let the Chinese have a go.

This sort of thinking is anathema to those who guide our foreign affairs at the moment. But it shifts some of our problems to the Chinese, and would save unknown billions that the U.S. now invests in Pakistan with very little return.

Want to Win Afghan Hearts? Stay for the Long Haul

May 17th, 2011 at 6:01 pm 21 Comments

David Frum draws our attention to a report by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) which suggests that although the United States is winning militarily in Afghanistan, remedy we are losing the support of the populace there. “This is not good news,” David writes.

Of course, in a counterinsurgency, it’s never good news when the people whose allegiance you are trying to earn seem to doubt and dislike your efforts. But while the ICOS report gives legitimate cause for concern, it is also being misinterpreted and misused by anti-war critics, who have long been searching for an excuse to effect an American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The ICOS study shows a divergence of public attitudes within Afghanistan. Southern Afghans are seemingly more skeptical of American and coalition efforts than their northern counterparts.

For example, according to Reuters, “more than 90 percent of southern respondents said they thought foreigners disrespected Islam and Afghan traditions.” The comparable figure in the country’s north was almost half that, or 47 percent.

Moreover, “the polling showed that support for educating girls and giving women the right to vote dropped in southern Afghanistan from last fall.

Sixty-six percent of those polled in southern Afghanistan said they opposed educating girls; and 61 percent opposed the vote for women. Opposition to both measures was at 49 percent last year in the south.

The clear implication, then, is that the more the Afghans see of us, the more they dislike and disagree with us. So why don’t we just leave well enough alone and get out before we make a complete mess of things?

Not so fast. Context is required. Southern Afghanistan, we must realize, is where some of the heaviest and most intense fighting has taken place. So it’s hardly surprising that ordinary Afghans might be war weary and tired.

Indeed, according to Reuters, “almost 90 percent of men polled in contested districts in southern Afghanistan believe foreign military operations are bad for them.”

But an ordinary Afghan certainly can believe this and yet also believe that the Taliban and other Jihadists are a menace which must be rooted out. He can honestly acknowledge that foreign military operations have taken their toll on his village and his province, and yet also recognize that there may be no effective or workable alternative right now.

And in fact, something like this calculus seems to have been made by ordinary Afghans, who clearly have no desire for a return to Taliban rule.

“Taliban justice is not popular,” reports the ICOS,

with only 16% of respondents in the south preferring this method of obtaining justice, while no interviewees in the north considered this as a possibility. The fact that support for Taliban justice is low even in the conservative south is an encouraging sign for the international community and the Afghan government.

Moreover, just “six percent in the north and 11 percent in the south stated [that] they would consider working for the Taliban if it meant that the foreign forces would leave Afghanistan faster [emphasis added].” And “only seven percent of respondents in southern Afghanistan believe that working with the Taliban is right.” However, 42 percent of southern Afghans share that view.

Most Afghans believe that U.S. and Coalition forces, and not the Taliban, are winning the war. But not surprisingly, in those districts where the Taliban has been most strong and just recently rooted out militarily — the Panjwayi and Maiwand Districts in Kandahar Province and the Garmsir District in Helmand Province — more Afghans believe that the Taliban, and not the Coalition, is winning.

What, then, should we conclude? Several things, I think:

1. U.S. and Coalition forces are winning the war.

This is something that I reported here at FrumForum back in February, and the ICOS study supports my conclusion: The momentum in southern Afghanistan has changed in our favor and is now militarily irreversible, as retired Gen. Jack Keane put it.

2. U.S. military leaders have been wise to insist upon a comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign.

There’s been a lot of nasty and unfair criticism, in the conservative blogosphere especially, about “Obama’s misbegotten nation-building” efforts in Afghanistan. But in fact, it was not Obama’s idea to adopt a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy; it was Generals Petraeus and McChrystal.

And they were right: Because unless and until the populace is protected and the insurgents isolated, no military victory in Afghanistan can ever truly be secure.

Our Soldiers and Marines understandably chafe at their restrictive rules of engagement. But as the ICOS study shows, ordinary Afghans also chafe at the collateral damage inflicted upon them by U.S. and Coalition forces. Success lies in striking a difficult balance between offensive operations aimed at rooting out the Taliban and other Jihadists, and defensive operations aimed at protecting and empowering the populace.

3. The U.S. military — and not just the U.S. military, but the entire U.S. government — must initiate a comprehensive information campaign to counteract Taliban propaganda, and to inform and persuade ordinary Afghans that our cause is their cause; and that our common cause is just.

Taliban information warfare clearly is having an effect in southern Afghanistan. We see this, for instance, in declining support for the education of women and increasing support for the view that foreigners disrespect Islam and Afghan traditions.

This is a real problem, because in a counterinsurgency, winning a military victory is only half the battle. Military gains must be complemented by political and cultural victories that are designed to win over the populace. And clearly, on that score, the United States needs to do much better.

4. U.S. policymakers must accept and communicate — to the American people, to Afghan policymakers and villagers, and, indeed, to the world — that we will be in Afghanistan for decades.

Although it may seem like the United States has been in Afghanistan forever, in truth, it is only within the past year or two that we have been there in force, waging a counterinsurgency. This is noteworthy because counterinsurgencies are time consuming affairs; and they are dependent very much upon perceptions within the populace.

If the populace perceives that we are committed to winning, then they will be inclined to support us. But if they perceive that we lack resolve and commitment, then they will be inclined to side with the enemy or “strong horse.”

The Obama administration has at times seemed too eager to leave Afghanistan and less eager to win there. This has made Afghan political and tribal leaders reluctant to work with us and more eager to accommodate the Taliban and other Jihadists.

The fact is, though, that the United States will have to remain in Afghanistan for decades. This to buttress and support the Afghan Army and Afghan security forces, but more importantly to help root out and contain Islamists in Pakistan, who threaten the entire region.

The Obama administration may not want to admit this, but that’s the inconvenient truth now that Osama bin Laden is dead after having been found residing in a plush Pakistani neighborhood roughly 40 miles from Islamabad: The long war just got longer, and there’s not a damn thing any of us can do about it.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.


Terror’s New Home Base

May 13th, 2011 at 9:21 am 2 Comments

The biggest surprise for the Americans in their successful assassination of Osama bin Laden, medical is that he was living in that Abbottabad compound in for at least five years.

They, sovaldi sale and everyone else, thought he was squirreled away in a cave in the Himalayas, not in rough but comfortable surroundings 800 meters from an army camp.

The Pakistani government is embarrassed that bin Laden was found living in relative comfort, but there’s little in their reaction that indicates shame. Rather, they are miffed that the American SEAL team went in without telling them.

Parliamentarians cheered Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani when he warned of dire consequences if the U.S. ever again sent troops into Pakistan without permission.

There’s a certain amount of play-acting going on by all parties.

President Barack Obama’s surprise and shock that Osama bin Laden was living in civilized surroundings may be genuine, but certainly the U.S. administration is under no illusions about Pakistan’s unreliability as an ally.

One can’t blame the Pakistani government. It doesn’t know what’s going on in its own country, and has limited power. It’s a country so deeply splintered and divided, that there is neither trust nor confidence.

Taliban and al-Qaeda factions control the loyalty of many; government efforts to assert dominance over regions is done cautiously and tentatively to avoid what could easily disintegrate into civil war.

Without doubt, factions inside the Pakistan army and intelligence service – the notorious ISI – not only knew of bin Laden’s presence, but protected him. The Americans also knew this, hence their stealthy raid to kill him.

Threats by the Pakistani government of serious consequences if the U.S. contemplates another raid is probably window-dressing. If intelligence gathered at the compound reveals more al-Qaeda big shots, likely they’ll also be taken out.

The real message of Pakistan’s (witting and unwitting) complicity with al-Qaeda and the Taliban is that America’s, Canada’s and NATO’s efforts to bring democracy to Afghanistan are pointless and doomed.

These “enemies” are now rooted in Pakistan – and largely invulnerable. At the moment, Afghanistan is mostly cleared of Taliban, but they seep in from Pakistan.

The U.S. can’t invade Pakistan. Must keep it as an unreliable ally. The problem is how to withdraw forces from Afghanistan, without the Taliban and al-Qaeda returning?

Before the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan had a king who was tolerated by warlords who ran the various regions. A central government hasn’t the strength to control the regions, especially since the Afghan army and national police are questionable entities.

In the past, regional warlords provided immunity from Taliban influence, and security for those who lived under the sway of the warlord.

If foreign troops depart Afghanistan, where is the guarantee that the Taliban or something similar won’t return? There is no guarantee – unless U.S. and other troops remain in the country. And this ain’t going to happen.

With Pakistan in a state of perpetual conflicting agendas, prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan are a crap shoot.

As long as America supplies Pakistan with $3 to $7 billion a year, it’ll remain a dubious ally – and if Osama bin Laden’s designated successor, Egyptian surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri, is located, he’ll be killed, — with or without Pakistan’s approval.

So, perhaps, will be the U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, ranting on You Tube from Yemen. That still won’t save Afghanistan for democracy.


Bin Laden’s Kid Lashes Out

May 12th, 2011 at 12:26 pm 14 Comments

One’s first reaction is that it’s a joke – a parody to attract attention.

But no. It’s apparently for real. If so, it shows how hopeless it is to try and convince some that what they believe makes no sense.

In a statement on behalf of the family, Omar bin Laden, the 30-year-old son of Osama, complains that the assassination of his father “blatantly violated” international law, ignored the presumption of innocence and the right of everyone to a fair trial.

In the absence of photos or videos, Omar and his brothers “are not convinced” that their father is dead. They are offended that he was killed rather than arrested to be “tried in a court of law so that truth is revealed to the people of the world.”

They want Osama put on trial as Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic were.

Omar also says it was “unworthy of the special forces to shoot unarmed female members… and one of his (Osama’s) sons.”

Omar also complains that if indeed Osama was buried at sea (“unwitnessed burial at sea”), the family was deprived of “performing religious rights of a Muslim man.”

If answers are not forthcoming within 30 days, Omar says the case will be taken to the International Criminal Court at the Hague, and the International Court of Justice.

“The UN must take notice of the violation of international law and assist us . . . .”

The effrontery of the bin Laden family is dazzling.

Prior to 9/11, Omar lived with his father in Afghanistan, but opposed his father’s fixation on religious violence. He is believed to now live in Qatar with a British wife.

There’s something disquieting about Omar’s curious statement – apparently delivered to the New York Times through Jean Sasson, an American author who helped write the 2009 memoir by Omar and his mother, Najwa Ghana: Growing Up bin Laden.

Omar insists his father “never hesitated to condemn any violent acts made by anyone, and expressed sorrow for the victims of any and all attacks.” Nonsense.

It’s puzzling how this view can be justified with what Osama bin Laden masterminded — not only in the deaths of some 3,000 on 9/11, but the deaths of 224 in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salam, the USS Cole in Aden, and the other terrorist acts both planned and aborted for various reasons.

The family puts it this way: “As he (Omar) condemned our father, we now condemn the President of the United States for ordering the execution of unarmed men and women.”

The bin Laden family is a large one—some 600 people. Osama bin Laden’s father was a contractor and friend of Saudi Arabia’s King Ibn Saud who awarded him the contract to build and repair all mosques as well as royal palaces.

Apparently Osama’s father Mohammed was married over 20 times, had three permanent wives, and one rotating wife – sort of a replacement that could be turned in or exchanged on a monthly basis. Osama has something like 54 brothers and sisters.

The family disowned him and Saudi Arabia revoked his passport in 1991 for anti-government actions and after he opposed American troops being allowed to use Saudi territory in the first Gulf War.

The only likely effect of the bin Laden siblings’ dispute with how their father was killed, and their doubts that he was killed, is that it may persuade President Obama to okay the release of photos of his corpse.


Get Tough With Pakistan

May 11th, 2011 at 12:59 pm 23 Comments

A month after Pakistan’s foundation in 1947, the American journalist Margaret Bourke-White interviewed the founder of the world’s first Islamic republic. She wanted to understand how the country would survive. But if she expected to be told about an impressive array of policies, she was disappointed. The answer was less complicated: Pakistan would survive, Mohammed Ali Jinnah replied, because it was too important to fail. America would not allow Pakistan to fall to the Russians. “This brave new nation,” Bourke-White concluded, “had no other claim on American friendship than this—that across a wild tumble of roadless mountain ranges lay the land of the Bolsheviks.”

Six decades on, that template continues to ensure the survival of Pakistan. Its ruling elite believes that America, terrified by the potential cost of dealing with nuclear Pakistan’s failure, will always pay the price for its survival. So instead of contrition and conciliation in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s discovery in Abbottabad, Washington received a contemptuous lecture on the sanctity of Pakistan’s sovereignty – accompanied by the deliberate release of the CIA station chief’s name in Islamabad.

Pakistan’s brazenness catches the breath. But there is method to what looks like madness. This is a high-stakes gamble by Pakistan’s military-intelligence chiefs. Having been exposed as the principal guardian of al Qaeda’s chief for the last six years, Pakistan is attempting preemptively to diminish the leverage Washington has acquired over Islamabad. By being shrill, by refusing to cooperate, by threatening to retaliate, Pakistan is shifting the focus away from the question of its complicity – and hoping that, rather than assume the role of prosecutor, Washington will scramble to play the pacifier.

A decade ago, at the height of its fury, Washington threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age if it so much as refused to cooperate in the war against al Qaeda. Today, trapped in the labyrinth of Af-Pak, it stares with impotent rage as Islamabad refuses even to grant access to bin Laden’s associates – congratulating itself on bin Laden’s killing, but still stuck in an alliance with his custodians.

Washington now has two options. The first is to return to business-as-usual. Washington can carry on pretending that Pakistan’s behavior can be altered with more incentives. This will make it easier for President Barack Obama to initiate a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. But far from repairing Afghanistan, the purpose of America’s mission will have been to secure the country for Pakistan. The Taliban leaders presently hibernating in Pakistan’s mountainous north will, with the ISI’s support, eventually return Afghanistan to its pre-2001 condition.

There are influential voices in the West which continue to exhort us to recognize and respect Pakistan’s “interests” in Afghanistan. But having fought the forces of medieval barbarity for a decade, can we hand Afghanistan back to those who foisted – and wish to re-impose – the worst elements of the Taliban upon the Afghans? To accommodate Pakistan’s “interests” in Afghanistan is to consign Afghans to a future of servitude – and to turn their country into an untrammeled training ground and launching pad for Pakistan’s relentless jihad against India. It should surprise no one that 91% of Afghans view Pakistan unfavorably.

The second option is for America to repudiate the myth of Pakistan’s indispensability and embrace the country which most Afghans view favorably: India. Washington has all along been aware of India’s overwhelmingly positive contribution to Afghanistan’s development. New Delhi is the fifth-largest donor of civilian aid to Kabul. It has constructed the new parliament building, the Palace of Democracy; trained the country’s parliamentarians; and donated aircraft to resuscitate Afghanistan’s national airline, Ariana. Its workers are engaged in major infrastructure projects ranging from highways and electricity grids to dam projects, telecommunications, and the expansion of a TV network.

As Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote in his assessment of the mission in 2009, “Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people.” Yet India was denied a larger role for fear, in Gen. McChrystal’s words, of “Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan and India.” This, to borrow David Frum’s words, was the geopolitical equivalent of locking up Martin Luther King, Jr., for fear of the Ku Klux Klan’s “countermeasures”.

Washington must now seek an all-out alliance with India. It makes no sense for the US and India to function as practical strangers in Afghanistan in order to mollify forces that threaten the existence of both these secular democracies. For Pakistan, the indulgent era of bottomless bribes and easy exonerations must come to an end. Pakistan must be held to account. This does not mean going to war. It means taking concrete measures to blunt the power of the military-intelligence camorra that rules Pakistan:

  1. Washington must identify and pursue Pakistan’s military and intelligence officials who collude with extremists of any stripe.
  2. It must impose severe travel restrictions on senior officers of the Pakistan army and the ISI – and their personal assets in the west must be identified and frozen.
  3. Washington should make it clear to Islamabad that it will no longer plead its cause with India.
  4. The ISI must be declared a terrorist organization. At least five Americans were killed in the attack on Mumbai in 2008 – an attack sponsored by the ISI. And according to the CIA, the 2008 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul – the deadliest since the Taliban’s fall in 2001 – was planned and executed in concert with the ISI. Afghanistan’s former foreign minister, Rangin Spanta, has confirmed that the “same sources’’ were behind the repeated attack on the Indian embassy in 2009.
  5. Finally, Pakistan must be told in no uncertain terms that if it does not act against the terrorists in its midst, then those likely to be affected by their actions have the right to intervene in self-defense.

Pakistan can no longer presume a place in the comity of nations. It must earn it.

Follow Kapil on twitter: @kapskom


Pakistan’s Markets Not Worried About Rift With U.S.

David Frum May 10th, 2011 at 9:25 am 1 Comment

Pakistani investors seem strangely unworried about possible consequences to their country from being caught harboring bin Laden. Or by their government’s decision to respond to the embarrassment by denial and confrontation rather than apology and conciliation.

The Karachi stock market gained about half a percent on Monday as investors put aside concerns over possible fallout of Osama Bin Laden’s killing in Pakistan, traders said.

The Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE)-100 Index gained 52.72 points, or 0.44 percent, to close at 11,932.68 points with volumes jumping 14 million to 78.651 million shares in what was seen as an indication of interest ahead of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s address to the parliament, they said.

“The session was good in the sense that we saw interest in many shares other than Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL),” said Qasim Ali Shah, head of equities at Global Securities. “Engro Corporation and Pakistan State Oil (PSO) were in the limelight.” The KSE-30 Index was down 76.83 points to 11,609.34 points. Shares of 354 companies were traded out of which 144 advanced, 125 receded, while 85 remained unchanged.