For the night of 2 October 2011
Afghanistan: Special comment: US Admiral Mullen's public indictment of Pakistani intelligence as the guiding force in anti-Afghan and anti-Coalition operations in Afghanistan has shifted the focus of energy for a solution to Islamabad which is where it belongs.
On Friday, Afghan President Karzai announced a change in Afghan policy. He said Afghanistan will not negotiate peace with the Taliban, but with their sponsors and supporters - Pakistan. Excerpts from his well-reasoned comments follow.
"Now, the question is: Do we want peace? Yes, we want that. The question then is: Who should we make peace with? Who is the other side in these talks? Here, the people of Afghanistan will ask me a question: Dear President, as you have raised the voice of peace, then who is the other side in the peace process? I do not have any other answer but to say Pakistan is the other side in the peace talks with us. Right?
Is this not the case? I do not have any other answer. I do not have any answer other than saying that the other side in the talks is Pakistan. This is because we cannot find Mullah Mohammad Omar. Where is he? We cannot find the Taliban Council. Where is it? A messenger comes disguised as the Taliban Council member and kills, and they neither confirm nor reject it. Therefore, we cannot talk to anyone but to Pakistan.
NightWatch judges that Karzai has the right of it. Pakistani law enforcement and security forces are more than capable of capturing Mullah Omar and all his cohorts. A diligent researcher can find his family cell phone number on the Internet. It beggars imagination that Pakistan can't find Omar!
Karzai has more inherited cultural wisdom about Afghan affairs than US "experts" give him credit. In the case of Afghanistan, without Pakistani subversion and meddling, the country would be essentially stable, with the usual Pashtun inter-clan fighting and constant whining. That stability would result regardless of the honesty or corruption of any government in Kabul.
Pakistan has been difficult to break. Mullen tried and failed, but he seemed to understand that the solution to the Afghan fight is in Pakistan. His error was in thinking that four-star Pakistani generals can make a difference in Pakistan. They cannot because the Pakistan Army has a unique Operational Code that transcends and disciplines individuals.
Put another way, neutralizing Pakistani influence and incessant Pakistani meddling is a necessary and almost a sufficient condition for lasting improvements in security in Afghanistan. Pakistani perfidy and subversion have not stopped, but after a decade the spotlight is where it belongs, on Islamabad.
Various media pundits have debated the "evidence" of Pakistani involvement, but have missed the forest for the trees. Pakistan Army and paramiliary brigades were in position to arrest bin Laden when he crossed from Tora Bora to Parachinar in December 2001. Instead on someone's orders, they escorted him to safety.
Pakistani forces were in position to arrest Omar and his relatives who live near Quetta and his entire cohort of panicky Pashtun Taliban thugs in December 2001. They did not and Pakistani intelligence have protected Omar and his wives and their families ever since, just as they protected bin Laden.
Had Musharraf and his acolytes, namely General Kayani, just kept their word that they would support the US, the US would have saved a lot of treasure, limbs and lives and there would be no Pakistani Taliban.
The geography of the region and the utter absence of any arms factories of any kind in Afghanistan leave no conclusion except that Pakistan Army, Inc. is the reason the Taliban have not been destroyed in Afghanistan. Pakistan is the geographic base. Many entrepreneurs have made huge profits from supplying NATO as well as Pakistani intelligence's supplicant proxies -- Haqqani, Hekmatyar and Omar. These guys would be small time, petty crooks without Pakistani support, especially government negligence in not putting all of them in jail in the name of human civility.
Karzai's focus is refreshing and worth supporting for many reasons. One of them is that nothing the US has done to make peace has accomplished anything but encourage the arrogance of Mullah Omar. Might as well try negotiating with Pakistan. Kayani offered to make some calls, during the Haqqani attack on the US embassy in Kabul last month. Wonder whether Mullen took him up on his offer.
Iran: On 1 October, Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected the Palestinians' bid for state hood because he said that any deal that allowed for the existence of Israel would threaten the security of the Middle East. "Any plan that seeks to divide Palestine is totally rejected," Khamenei said. He also said that Israel and its allies could expect blows that a NATO missile shield could not prevent if Iran were attacked. Hamas also portrayed the statehood bid as President Mahmoud Abbas "begging" for statehood.
Comment: Khamenei dealt an ace to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Khamenei's statement might have played well in Tehran, but it makes Iran an object of international derision. Everyone laughs at Ahmadi-Nejad; Khamenei has now joined the Ahmadi-Nejad school of buffoonery. By Khamenei's words, the Iranian leadership threatens the security of the Middle East by making Iran the target of an international coalition that opposes Iranian hegemony and bombast.
Syria: Syrian authorities and Palestinian Hamas, headed by Khalid Meshaal from his headquarters in Damascus, are now barely on speaking terms, according to government officials and an Islamic cleric close to Hamas.
An official in the ruling Baath Party accused Palestinian Hamas of hedging its bets by funding anti-Syrian organizations, in the expectation the al Asad government could/would be toppled . "In public Hamas says it is not with either side in the [Syrian] crisis but in reality they have turned their back on Syria and have sided with Syria's opponents….We have information that Hamas is channeling money to anti-regime groups in Europe. They have decided to bet against the regime," the Baathist said. He described the move as a "serious mistake."
Comment: Iran and Syria - Shiite and Shiite-affiliated - have been the primary benefactors of Hamas. As reported, the head of Hamas resides in Damascus. They have been united in their hostility to Israel, not because of any religious compatibility. Hamas is Sunni Muslim. They bite the hand that keeps them alive, regardless of the consequences.
Special comment: A handful of well-informed and insightful analysts have published that the Muslims will destroy themselves, if only the US gets the wisdom to just get out of the way and stop providing cannon-fodder targets that rally and divert the Muslims. Some writers have been making this point for more than two decades.
The idea that Hamas would turn on its primary benefactors proves the point. Regional stability and respect for human rights depend more on the survival of the Alawite government than on unnamed Sunni agitators.
Turkey-Israel: Reports of two low-flying Israeli fighter aircraft and a helicopter harassing a Turkish seismic research ship in the Mediterranean Sea on 29 September do not reflect the truth, according to a written statement posted on the Turkish General Staff's website on 30 September, Today's Zaman reported. The Turkish ship was exploring for natural gas near Cyprus.
Earlier in the day, the crew of a Turkish exploration ship searching for natural gas reservoirs in the Mediterranean Sea near Cyprus said two Israeli fighter aircraft and a helicopter circled over the ship at night.
Turkish Watan Daily reported two F-15 jets flew through Cypriot and Turkish airspace and approached the Turkish coastline, retreating only after Turkey deployed two F-16 jets. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman said the IDF was not familiar with the incident.
Comment: Over the weekend neither Turkey nor Israel published follow-up reports on this event. It probably occurred and would have greatly embarrassed the Turks. Readers will recall that the Erdogan government announced it would send warships to escort humanitarian aid ships bound for Hamas and the Gaza Strip in defiance of Israel's blockade.
The Israeli overflight would have proven, even the disputed reports will have created the impression, that Turkey can't protect its ships. The greeting card from the Israeli Air Force might read, "We can reach out to you and you can't detect, much less stop us."
Libya: Update. The ruling authorities in Libya will postpone the formation of an interim government until the strongholds of Qadhafi are eliminated, Mahmoud Jibril, chairman of the executive office of Libya's National Transitional Council, said on 29 September. Jibril said the current executive office is to remain in operation and will be kept as the caretaker administration.
End of NightWatch for 2 October.
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