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War on Terror

He was 20, a private in the 10th Mountain Division from Boyne City, population 3,735 souls, which bills itself as “the fastest growing city in Northern Michigan.”  He died of “wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire” and is survived by his parents. These days, the names of the dead dribble directly onto the inside pages of newspapers, or simply into the ether, in a war now opposed by 63% of Americans, according to the latest CNN/ORC opinion poll, but in truth barely remembered by anyone in this country.  It’s a reality made easier by the fact that the dead of America’s All-Volunteer Army tend to come from forgettable places -- small towns, obscure suburbs, third or fourth-rank cities -- and a military that ever fewer Americans have any connection with. As in all such cases, NATO has opened an “investigation” into what happened.  The results of such investigations seldom become known. Similarly, on Thanksgiving weekend, 24 to 28 Pakistani soldiers, including two officers, were killed in a set of “NATO” helicopter and fighter-jet attacks on two outposts across the Afghan border in Pakistan.  One post, according to Pakistani sources, was attacked twice.  More soldiers were wounded.   Outraged Pakistani officials promptly denounced the attack, closed key border crossings to U.S. vehicles supplying the war in Afghanistan, and demanded that the U.S. leave a key airbase used for the CIA’s drone war in the Pakistani tribal areas. In response, American officials, military and civilian, offered condolences and yet pleaded “self-defense,” while offering promises of a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the “friendly fire incident.” -- Tom Engelhardt

The Haqqani Network which primarily uses suicide bombings as a tactic in Afghanistan, and constitutes a quintessential element of the Kabul Attack Network (KAN), a group that carries out operations in and around Kabul, the national capital. KAN also includes militants belonging to the Quetta Shura Taliban, run by Mullah Omar, and Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HI-G) led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and co-operates with other terrorist outfits including al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Led by senior Haqqani leaders, Dawood and Taj Mir Jawad, KAN has executed several attacks in Kabul. The major KAN successes owe mainly to the Haqqani Network. Jeffrey A. Dressler of the Institute for the Study of War notes, “[a]s early as 2007, there were reports that insurgents were establishing bases of operations in districts and provinces in and around Kabul. These bases were established in Kabul and Logar and resourced by suicide bombers who could be assigned to strike targets in the nation’s capital”. -- Ambreen Agha

The 'targeted operation' was launched four days after Security Forces (SFs) suffered nine fatalities in a Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) attack on their convoy in the Akakhel area of Bara tehsil on October 17, 2011. 14 terrorists were killed in retaliatory fire by the SFs.  The Khyber Agency, which borders Afghanistan to the east, the Orakzai Agency to the south, Mohmand Agency to the North and Peshawar District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province to the East, has emerged in recent times as a centre of growing extremist activities as a result of the infiltration of runaway militants from the adjacent Agencies, where military operations were ongoing. Operation Koh-i-Sufaid (White Mountain) was conducted in Kurram Agency between May 2, 2011, and August 17, 2011, while Operation Brekhna (Thunder) has been in progress in the Mohmand Agency since April 6, 2011. The remote Tirah Valley in the Bara Sub-district is important for the extremists because of its difficult terrain, which makes SF operations complicated.  According to the SATP data, a total of 1,812 fatalities, including 400 civilians, 152 SFs and 1,260 militants have been recorded in the Khyber Agency since 2008 (data till October 30, 2011). The overall fatalities in FATA during this period stand at 15,690 comprising of 2,663 civilians, 993 SFs and 12,034 militants. -- Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

 

As America chose 'good over evil', a heady mix of politics, terror and religion spread across the subcontinent. America will eventually wriggle out of Afghanistan, differentiating between the ' Good Taliban' and 'Bad Taliban'. But India, Pakistan and other countries in our region will continue to suffer the consequences of radical madrasas sponsored by the CIA in cooperation with the Pakistani state, originally set up to drive the Russians away. Together they supported the call for an armed 'jihad' - something the Islamic world hadn't seen for almost a century, and just a few times in the whole1400 years of Islamic history. Unfortunately, the history of Islam is currently linked to the Arabs' history; and the peculiar and prohobitive Saudi version of Islam often thrust upon diverse Muslim communities at that. This has kept Islamic discourse from a more open and intelligent engagement with modernity. -- Sadia Dehlvi

The film is notable for its portrayal of Hinduism and of the British. Hindus are presented as miserable, corrupt, and sexually debauched while the British are scheming. Muslims, meanwhile, are poor and hard working. Ilam Din (Haider) is depicted as a blessed Muslim from the moment of his birth. When a mullah recites Azan (call for prayers) in his ear, the new-born Ilam Din stops crying and listens to Azan attentively. The mullah interprets this as a blessed sign. In contrast, Raj Pal (Afzal Ahmed) is greedy, scheming and sexually wayward. He is fond of a Red Light Area girl who is also a Hindu. Raj Pal wants to publish an inflammatory book to provoke the Muslims. The white ruler (Angraiz Sarkar) has assured him that no harm will come his way. But his wife and daughter - who was once about to be raped by a local Hindu tough (Munawwar Saeed), only to be rescued by Ilam Din - dissuade him. When the book hits the stall, Muslims begin to protest. Raj Pal is sent to jail by the district court and the book is banned. --- Farooq Sulehria

 

These ill-fated families had everything in abundance including loss, yet continued to become much-loved legacies. Fairy tales will always be just that, fairy tales! Happily ever after can never reach the extraordinary heights reached by its antagonist, tragedy. And when tragedy strikes real people, it hits where it affects the most and becomes history. The images of a convertible cruising with the first couple of America and gun shots being heard; Benazir Bhutto waving to the crowd and then going down with the explosion; the assassin bowing down to touch Rajeev Gandhi’s feet — all images that will perhaps always remind us of life’s unpredictability. These families have seen power, money, success, tragedy and sorrow like no other. -- Parkha Zeb

 

The fact that the Taliban and al Qaeda had sanctuaries and freedom in Pakistan is largely responsible for their present position in the strategic equation. One could mention a hundred junctures where the US went wrong in Afghanistan over the past 10 years, including turning a blind eye to the Taliban and the elements of Pakistan’s security establishment who had been openly supporting militants. Let alone the strategic follies in the war zone, some fairly dumb decisions were made politically too. Once the operations Rah-e-Rast and Haq were carried out to push them (as opposed to finish them off), they found sanctuaries in Afghan provinces, especially Nuristan. -- Marvi Sirmed

There are numerous Pakistanis who are convinced that the Taliban rule in Afghanistan was the best that the country had ever seen. They say that there was peace in Afghanistan and people could travel wherever they wanted to inside it, that there was no theft, no rape, no looting and generally law and order was very good. There is, however, another segment of society, which is of the opinion that religion was misinterpreted and misused by the Taliban when they came to power in Afghanistan. And as for those media anchors who consider the Taliban important for lasting peace in Afghanistan, why don’t they consider allowing the Taliban to set up a government in, say, Karachi? -- Asad Munir

MANSOUR Arbabsiar, the man at the centre of the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, has been described variously as ‘dishevelled’, ‘disorganised’, ‘unreliable’, and even ‘worthless’. Hardly flattering labels, but not (yet) criminal offences. In any case, he hardly seems to be an Iranian version of James Bond. Tom Hossein, an old friend of Arbabsiar’s, describes him as somebody “who was constantly losing his keys and cellphone”. After a dismal 30-year career in which he failed in a succession of business ventures ranging from selling horses and cars to peddling ice cream and sandwiches, we are being asked to believe that he was entrusted with a complex assassination plot stretching from Tehran to Mexico to Washington. -- Irfan Husain

Visit the US, there is no sign of any threat or attack, life goes like routine with no shade of war anywhere. Here in Pakistan, there is no road or street that does not have barricades, security checks and all sorts of problems that the people face. The entire thrust has come on Pakistan for no fault of hers. Bush and company have made billions, killed people in hundreds of thousands with no sweat on their faces. -- Wahab Munir

Lieberman and Co. have lost Turkey and are losing Egypt, our two stalwart allies in the region, and have insulted, humiliated and trodden on the toes of a dozen other nations. But they have undoubtedly gained much prestige. “They” – Netanyahu, Lieberman et al – are losing all our remaining friends, humiliating Barack Obama on the way. They sabotage the resumption of peace negotiations. They sprinkle settlements everywhere. If the Two-State solution is finally made impossible, what remains? A unified state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan? What kind of state would that be? They are dead set against a bi-national state, which would be the total negation of Zionism. An apartheid state? How long could that last? The ancient Hebrew sages said: “Who is the bravest hero? He who turns his enemy into a friend.” The modern sages who govern us have turned this around: “Who has the most prestige? He who turns his friend into an enemy.” -- Uri Avnery

TRUTH WILL out, they say. In the case of the sensational murder of former Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya on 26 March 2003, the adage could well prove true. Especially after the arrest of suspended IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt, who filed an affidavit in the Gujarat High Court last week stating that former minister of state for home Amit Shah and Chief Minister Narendra Modi asked him to destroy important evidence he had collected pertaining to the case. The web is quite tangled. The CBI probe into the fake encounter that killed Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi saw the arrest of Shah for his alleged connivance with the cops. Now the agency, on the orders of the SC, is investigating the encounter that took the life of Sohrabuddin’s associate Prajapati. -- Rana Ayyub (Photo: Haren Pandya)

In case Islamabad decides to pull the plug on the US, it may still be possible to feed the troops in Afghanistan - but it will certainly become more difficult. This is not to suggest that there aren't problems in Washington's perception of Pakistan. In fact, as the US gets into the election cycle, the hawks in the government will make a case against Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan also needs the US if the latter wants a good deal in Afghanistan. Despite the inclination of the hawks in Islamabad to 'go it alone' in Afghanistan, the fact is that this is a plan fraught with numerous problems. The most critical issue is the threat of Pakistan getting sucked into the Afghan quagmire after the US's departure. Pakistan and the US stand at a juncture in their relations where they experience a strategic divergence of perceptions, plan and tactical convergence. This means that they are no longer on the same page as far as Afghanistan and the war on terror are concerned. The main issue is the manner in which they visualise the Afghanistan endgame. -- Ayesha Siddiqa

Rabbani was a disarmingly soft-spoken man who, it almost seemed, was inspired by the Quranic injunction: “... be modest in thy bearing, and lower thy voice: for, behold, the ugliest of all voices is the voice of asses.” Yet, behind this self-effacing facade was a ruthlessly ambitious person who is blamed by his detractors for the anarchy that prevailed in post-Najib Afghanistan and triggered the emergence of the Taliban.  Three overwhelmingly strong impulses motivated Rabbani throughout his eventful life: a commitment to the cause of Afghanistan’s Tajik community, a passion for restructuring Afghan society in accordance with his own interpretation of Islam, and an insatiable urge for power. He believed that power would enable him to achieve the first two objectives. He also believed that peace could not return to the country so long as foreign forces remained and he was against the grant of permanent military bases to the US. For this reason the point-man for Afghanistan at the Iranian foreign office, Mohsen Pak-Ayeen, made the preposterous statement that the Americans and NATO were responsible for the killing of Rabbani. -- S Iftikhar Murshed

 

“Even his tie and shoes were still on,” Shafiq told me. He called the police, and by the next day they had determined the man’s identity: Syed Saleem Shahzad, a journalist known for his exposés of the Pakistani military. Meanwhile, the zamindar—feudal lord—of a village twenty miles upstream from the dam called the police about a white Toyota Corolla that had been abandoned by the canal, in the shade of a banyan tree. The police discovered that the car belonged to Shahzad. Its doors were locked, and there was no trace of blood. Shahzad, whose parents migrated from India after Partition, making him a Mohajir—Urdu for “immigrant”—was an affable outsider within Pakistan’s journalistic circles. A hallmark of Shahzad’s reporting was that it frequently featured interviews with Islamist militants, including Al Qaeda fighters. -- Dexter Filkins

 

Terrorist violence in Quetta has had a significant sectarian overlay. In a prominent attack, at least 11 Shias were killed and another three were injured when their vehicle was attacked near a bus stop on Spiny Road in Quetta on July 30, 2011. In another attack, a suicide car bomb killed at least 11 Shias and injured 22, while they were celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr in Quetta on August 31, 2011. The bomber was apparently targeting a Shiite mosque, but could not get close enough because the road was blocked. The Quetta Shura-al Qaeda combine has plagued US-led forces fighting in Afghanistan. -- Ajit Kumar Singh

 

Even as the anniversary unfolded, a nation that had not experienced a major terrorist attack in a decade had the jitters. Intelligence officials in recent days had rushed to assess a tip suggesting that two or three operatives of Al Qaeda had slipped into the country to set off a car bomb in New York or Washington to disrupt the ceremonies. Security at the trade center and other sites was heavy. As peace prevailed, the ground zero proceedings closed in the early afternoon with trumpeters of the city and the Port Authority police, the Fire Department and the military services playing taps, the hauntingly beautiful refrain that closes the military day. And as the sun went down and a rising full moon cast a silvery darkness over the city, two powerful searchlight beams shot skyward from near ground zero, creating likenesses of the fallen towers in a “Tribute in Light.” The illuminations, it was said, would be seen for 50 miles until dawn. -- ROBERT D. McFADDEN

 

I walked in to the newsroom just as the second airplane crashed in to the second tower. One of the news editors was in a total flap – he looked over and caught my eye and shrieked, “Muslim fanatics! Arabs have attacked the twin towers!” With that he turned around and got back to typing ferociously and glaring at his computer screen. To this day I don’t believe the comment he made were directed at me because I’m a Muslim. I just happened to walk in to the newsroom at that precise time. I took a deep breath and walked over to my desk. I remember thinking, “Gosh! It didn’t take long for the backlash to start.” A decade on from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, my life has changed in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Militia in Baghdad killed my father in law in 2008. His body was left on the street near the family home. A passer by picked up the mobile phone ringing next to his body. The passerby told the young woman calling the phone that he had answered the phone because the man the phone belonged to was dead and his body was in the street. He suggested someone should arrange to collect the body. The young woman calling the mobile phone was my 16-year-old sister in law. -- Shaista Aziz

Afghanistan poses less of a threat to global security than has been imagined. The Taliban are extremely unlikely to be able to seize Kabul, even if there was a very significant reduction in foreign troops. They are even more unlikely to invite al-Qaeda back: Many Taliban leaders see that connection as their fundamental mistake before 9/11. And even with a foothold in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda wouldn’t significantly strengthen its ability to harm the West. The US would respond much more vigorously than it did before 9/11. If the question is about regional stability, Egypt is more important than Afghanistan. If the concern is terrorism, Pakistan is more important. -- Rory Stewart

 

I think we’ll stick with the ‘killing machine’ depiction. The CIA’s drone attacks in Pakistan have killed a lot more innocent people than it does in more mundane day-to-day butchery, but the plain fact is that it has always been in the business of killing, and always will be. The double murder in Lahore by the CIA employee Raymond Davis was bizarre and outrageous but only a minor indication of its embrace of criminality. Its loony tunes schemes to assassinate Fidel Castro were so preposterous as to be comical, in a sick sort of way, but they were perfectly serious. In 2007, the US declassified some documents, including “a memo that reveals that CIA director, Allen Dulles, personally approved a plot to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro”. Brits and Americans are not averse to torture, you understand, but they want it to be done by someone else so that they can look starry-eyed at the world and declare they would be shocked — shocked! — that anyone could imagine they would be involved. They wring their bloodstained hands in mock dismay — but this time they’ve been caught with their hands in the kill. -- Brian Cloughley

 

The events of that day were so jarring that they are recorded in our memories as if they had taken place last week. For most of the decade, our reaction to the attack strengthened the attackers. Our unprovoked destruction of an Arab nation, our degradation of prisoners, our torturing of suspects, and perceived xenophobia and religious prejudice drove millions away from our cause and many into the ranks of our attackers. Only slowly did the repeated heinous acts of our enemy, their killing of their coreligionists, begin to undermine their support. Only with a new president did the focus of our effort swing from Iraq to a well-thought-out effort to destroy the organization that had actually attacked America on 9/11. Had we not invaded Iraq, had the last two years of wearing down of Al Qaeda been done instead, we could have reduced that threat to a marginalized nub five years ago. Those are the facts that should not be obscured by our desire to heal. Knowing what our core values are and cleaving to them, even in times of testing, must be a lesson when we see the results of situational ethics and temporary, expedient treatment of basic rights. America should not again panic and overreact to terrorist attacks against this country.-- Richard A. Clarke

Our culture of hate: India's key failure since 9/11 has been the inability to hold honest national conversation about communal violence, and the ways in which it is embedded in our cultures: a key cause of the persistence of the jihadist movement. Even though our national credo holds that Indian culture is exceptional in its tolerance, that very culture has often generated unimaginable violence. In the middle class liberal rendition of events, Muslims are victims of a betrayal of our syncretic values; in the Hindu nationalist account, Muslims are the villains who betrayed it. In practice, that means politics which either panders to fundamentalists or demonises Muslims. Neither narrative corresponds closely to reality. The truth, sadly, is that communalism is an organic part of the warp and weft of our cultures. Except in a few otherwise liberal Indian families, would not the children of cross-communal marriages be an object of intense disputation? Housing apartheid and job discrimination remain organic parts of the experience of everyday reality for Muslims. Even though India has embraced technological modernity, its culture is yet to secularise. -- Praveen Swami

Kishore Mahbubani, a retired Singaporean diplomat, published a provocative essay in The Financial Times on Monday that began like this: “Dictators are falling. Democracies are failing. A curious coincidence? Or is it, perhaps, a sign that something fundamental has changed in the grain of human history. I believe so. How do dictators survive? They tell lies. “No US leaders dare to tell the truth to the people. All their pronouncements rest on a mythical assumption that ‘recovery’ is around the corner. Implicitly, they say this is a normal recession. But this is no normal recession. There will be no painless solution. ‘Sacrifice’ will be needed, and the American people know this. But no American politician dares utter the word ‘sacrifice.’ Painful truths cannot be told.” Of course, there is a big difference between America and Libya. We can vote out our liars, unlike certain Arab — and Asian — countries. Still, Mahbubani’s comparison warrants some reflection this week, which coincides with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 ... It is a great week for truth-telling.-Thomas L. Friedman

 

What holds in good fiction is true in life. Trust is still a scarce commodity, ten years after the terrorist attacks left thousands dead in New York, northern Virginia and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Trust in the democratic and patriotic intentions of the Muslims in our midst. Trust in the ability of government to protect us at home and overseas. Trust that the nation will ever be able to put aside partisanship, race, religion and class and come together as it did on September 12th — and for a blessed but abbreviated time afterward. This mistrust is keenly felt by Muslim Americans. In a new poll by the Pew Research Center, a majority of Muslims say that they feel targeted by government anti-terrorism policies; 55% say that being a Muslim in the United States is more difficult since 9/11. Significant numbers say that they have been viewed with suspicion, called offensive names and feel singled out by airport security. Would any other minority group accept this? Yet the survey also found a steadfast and overwhelming rejection of Islamic extremism and a similarly strong sense of satisfaction with life in America — nearly four out of five rate their communities as good places to live. -- Editorial, Daily Jewish Forward

 

As I watched the planes slam into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and the death and destruction that followed, I could understand the reactions of those on the spot, from President Bush downwards. It is easy to pick errors with the benefit of hindsight, but when faced with a catastrophe of unimaginable magnitude, people make instant decisions under huge pressure. Understandably, they occasionally get them wrong. But to use errors of judgment as the basis of faulty theories is to misunderstand the nature of crises and our response to them. Some conspiracy theorists have pointed at the rapid collapse of the towers. They insist that somehow, the buildings had been wired with explosives that triggered the implosion. In fact, when the aircraft fuel burned on the upper floors, it melted the metal structure that held the building up, causing it to fall on the floors below. This sudden weight caused them to cave in, thus precipitating the quick collapse of both buildings. It should be obvious that to wire up such huge structures would take scores of workers several weeks. -- Irfan Husain

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