What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New info bytes about the source (i.e. the neo-Taliban's rear-base area)

I'll draw here attention to some more information emerging on the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the FATA, from two sources you might like to be aware of, courtesy of Asia Times Online. All this while I'm listening to some qawwali.
Andrew McGregor offers more on the planned U.S.-Afghan-Pakistani military intelligence centres along the Afghan-Pakistani border (six in total, three on either side).
"The project is an outgrowth of the earlier Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC) established in Kabul in January 2007. This center, comprising 12 ISAF, six Afghan and six Pakistani intelligence officers, was initiated by the military intelligence sharing working group, a subcommittee of the tripartite plenary commission of military commanders that meets on a bimonthly basis. The JIOC is designed to facilitate intelligence-sharing, joint operations planning and an exchange of information on improvised explosive devices. The working languages are English, Dari and Pashto, aided by a number of translators.
Despite such glowing descriptions, there remains one hitch - Pakistan's military has yet to make a full commitment to the project. According to Major General Athar Abbas, the director general of Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations, a military information organization, "At this time this proposal is being analyzed and evaluated by the concerned officials. But Pakistan has not yet come to a decision on this matter.". General Abbas and other officials have declined to discuss Pakistan's reservations or even to commit to a deadline for a decision."
About the recent attacks on NATO's supply lines, one of McGregor's hints makes me wonder if some of the "attacks" were in fact simple insurance fraud, or (partly forced) complicity between insurgents and suppliers who are by contract responsible for their own operational security. Still with McGregor here:
"A new round of attacks on Torkham may have already begun - as many as 40 oil tankers destined for coalition forces in Afghanistan were destroyed in a series of explosions in a Torkham parking lot on March 20. There were 70 to 100 tankers awaiting clearance to cross into Afghanistan at the time.
Only a day before the attack on the tankers, an effort by a US Army colonel to expedite border clearances for military transports at Torkham failed when the chief Pakistani customs official refused to meet with her.
Vehicles typically wait in parking lots at Torkham for up to 20 days awaiting clearance to proceed.
There are also accusations that some tanker operators may be selling their fuel along the road in Pakistan before deliberately torching their vehicles at Torkham to claim the insurance on the missing load."
But there's also an interesting reference in-between that I left out above. The U.S. military's bureacracy might be aggravating the problem by itself contributing to hold-up at the border: "Part of the problem is due to delays in permits faxed to Torkham from the US base in Bagram near Kabul - until these are received the vehicles are forbidden to cross into Afghanistan."
"The strategy to cut the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) supply lines was the brainchild of the Punjabi fighters. They also chose Pakistan's Khyber Agency and the neighboring Afghan province of Nangarhar - most unlikely places for Taliban operations - as the focus of the spring offensive.
Wednesday's events in Khyber Agency are illuminating and could herald a new flashpoint in the "war on terror".
Local tribes were given money by the Americans to secure the area from Taliban activities. US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte recently visited Khyber Agency and met a few tribal elders. As a result, the tribesmen gave an ultimatum to the pro-Taliban Lashkar-i-Islam, as well as to the Pakistan government's representative in the agency, to leave the area.
Lashkar-i-Islam refused, leading to clashes with anti-Taliban forces supported by Pakistani troops. Fighting raged into early Thursday and involved heavy weapons, including missiles, rockets and mortars. Taliban contacts confirmed to Asia Times Online that this event will lead to a new round of attacks against Pakistani security forces."
So you have all the elements of U.S. strategy quoted above with regards to the FATA. COIN training to the Frontier Corps + military intelligence centres, but only one operational, on the Afghan side at Torkham right now + drone flights (possibly from Peshawar even) + tribal patronage to secure key areas. With less than unambiguous cooperation from the Pakistani side this may only manage the problem, and not solve it, of course.
Syed Saleem Shahzad by the way talks of a possibly growing role of Punjabi militants with Kashmiri experience in this year's insurgent campaign. Do read his take.
To finish then I'll just draw attention to this informative article about Canada's history with trying to pacify Panjway district in Kandahar province, from last December. It also points to the significance of the Baluchistani part of the Afghan-Pakistani borderland, which is often overlooked with all the talk about the FATA. This article mentions a supply line running up to Panjway from the predominantly Baluch town of Nushki. I never had any doubt those supply lines are just as important as the ones coming across the south of Afghanistan from the east, from the direction of Peshawar. After all, Talib leaders have in the past been killed or caught near that section of the border, entering or leaving Afghanistan. With the improvements in the second half of last year in the Loya Paktia area in the east, these southern supply lines may have become even more important for the insurgents. The relevant excerpt I'm noting:
"The line with which the Taliban supplies the Panjwaii area begins in Nushki, Pakistan, far to the south. It runs across the border, northwest along truck tracks across the Rigestan Desert to the lower Helmand River, then by river to their supply base at Garmsir, and up the Arghandab tributary to Highway 1 and Panjwaii, just west of Kandahar. Cutting that supply line would help secure the highway and protect Kandahar, but to date no such effort has succeeded."

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