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

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Peculiarities

Pakistan is a country from which ISAF supplies and militants fighting ISAF forces cross the border to Afghanistan. It is a country in the cities of which many Kabul-based internationals keep their families, while a number of al-Qaida and Taliban VIP types do the same thing, too. Quite a peculiar situation indeed. And more peculiarities can be noted about the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan all the time. I'll draw attention to three of those here, a small selection from what the broadly interpreted media offered recently.
1.) Drugs, border crossings and ISAF supplies
Problems at the border crossing at Chaman/Spin Boldak (Reuters, reporting from Chaman, January 13, Tuesday).
"The other supply route through the border town of Chaman in Baluchistan province, to the southwest of Peshawar, leading to the Afghan city of Kandahar, has been largely free of attacks, at least on the Pakistani side.
But ethnic Pashtun tribesmen, protesting against security force searches for militants, have been blocking the road to the border since Saturday. "Not a single truck has gone to the border in the past three days. We're in talks to settle things down," senior provincial government official Khaliq Nazar Kayani told Reuters.
Kayani is based in the town of Qila Abdullah, about 70 km (45 miles) southwest of the Chaman border crossing, where the protesters have been blocking the road. Tribal elder Abdul Qahar Wadan said the blockade would go on until the government punished those responsible for what he described as unjust searches. "They have no right to enter our houses without proof. It's against our customs and honour," Wadan said.
Hundreds of trucks have been stopped and are parked by the side of the road in Qila Abdullah, residents said. Usually, about 100 trucks cross into Afghanistan through the Chaman crossing every day, compared with about 300 through the Khyber Pass crossing at Torkham, customs officials say."
A source that's more informative about the origins of this particular conflict (Riaz Khan, AP, January 11), revealing more about the connection to the drugs trade:
"Also Sunday, tribesmen were blocking the southwestern supply route for NATO forces in Afghanistan at Chaman with burning tires and felled trees. They were protesting the killing of one of their members in a raid by Pakistan's anti-narcotics force."
We're beyond the stalemate now, as Matiullah Achakzai of AP is reporting:
"The protesters withdrew on Wednesday after police promised to take their complaints to provincial authorities, tribal leader Abdul Kahar Khan Wadan said.
Shortly afterward, about 100 trucks carrying NATO and U.S. supplies crossed the border, Chaman police officer Abdul Basir said. A convoy of another 100 vehicles was expected to reach the frontier by nightfall, he said. "
Illustration: A man from Qila Abdullah, at the time of last year's general elections in Pakistan (source)
2.) Calling 1-800-HAQQANI
An intelligence intercept revealed about what I usually term as a "sinking boat operation," a number of which have been carried out over the past couple of years by Pakistan - if you have already read about this earlier, sorry, I only learned of this now, so I'll note it here (the article I'm linking to is about nuclear safety in Pakistan, how the country is looking to preserve it with U.S. help, without revealing much to the U.S. or others).
"Washington’s sanguinity was not increased when Pakistan’s new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, arrived in Washington over the summer for what turned out to be a disastrous first visit. Gilani, as the country’s first civilian leader in more than a decade, was under huge pressure to show he could bring the intelligence agency, and the country, under control. He couldn’t — a brief effort to force the ISI to report to the civilian leadership was quashed — but he thought he had better show up with a gift for President Bush.
Gilani wanted to tell Bush that he had sent forces into the tribal areas to clean out a major madrassa where hard-line ideology and intolerance were part of the daily curriculum. There were roughly 25,000 such private Islamic schools around Pakistan, though only a small number of them regularly bred young terrorists. The one he decided to target was run by the Haqqani faction of Islamic militants, one of the most powerful in the tribal areas.
Though Gilani never knew it, Bush was aware of this gift in advance. The National Security Agency had picked up intercepts indicating that a Pakistani unit warned the leadership of the school about what was coming before carrying out its raid. “They must have called 1-800-HAQQANI,” said one person who was familiar with the intercepted conversation. According to another, the account of the warning sent to the school was almost comic. “It was something like, ‘Hey, we’re going to hit your place in a few days, so if anyone important is there, you might want to tell them to scram.’ ”
When the “attack” on the madrassa came, the Pakistani forces grabbed a few guns and hauled away a few teenagers. Sure enough, a few days later Gilani showed up in the Oval Office and conveyed the wonderful news to Bush: the great crackdown on the madrassas had begun. The officials in the room — Bush; his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley; and others — did not want to confront Gilani with the evidence that the school had been warned. That would have required revealing sensitive intercepts, and they judged, according to participants in the discussion, that Gilani was both incapable of keeping a secret and incapable of cracking down on his military and intelligence units. Indeed, Gilani may not even have been aware that his gift was a charade: Bush and Hadley may well have known more about the military’s actions than the prime minister himself."
3.) A joint relaxation operation by government and insurgents in Kandahar
Read about some of the Taliban and their relations to the Afghan government, to listening to music and to visiting shrines (btw, in Pakistan there are some shrines even for fallen AQ fighters!). Link to Alex Strick van Linschoten's post and brief excerpt below - but make the leap and follow the link rather; it's compulsory reading over there (while right here this is the end of my post).
"Back out in the desert, people started to arrive as word had spread that some musicians had come to perform at Ibrahim Khalifa Baba, the shrine of an old ’saint’. I sat next to the head of one of Kandahar’s government administrations, who had also come out to the shrine. He received a call from one of the police checkpoints further north of where we were.
“I have 8 Taliban with weapons in a car who say that they want to come to Ibrahim Khalifa Baba. What should we do with them?” the policeman asked. “Let them come!” my friend replied. “They’re probably just coming to enjoy the music. Who are we to stop them?” "

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