"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

Militants ready for Pakistan's war

From Asia Times Online.

Pakistan has two options. The country can give in to militancy or it can conduct military operations against it, influential advisor to the Interior Ministry, Rahman Malik, said on Thursday. And the government is not going to negotiate with militants, he added.

His remarks follow a suicide bomb attack outside the country's main defense industry complex at Wah, 30 kilometers northwest of the capital Islamabad, which killed as many as 100 people. The Pakistani Taliban immediately claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in response to the military's recent air bombardment of Bajaur Agency, which led to the displacement of 250,000 people.

Rahman's comments amount to a declaration of war on growing Islamic militancy, but it could be that the new civilian Pakistani leadership is steering the "war on terror" in the wrong direction.

Rahman's remarks cannot be dismissed as a knee-jerk reaction in the heat of the moment. Only a few hours before the suicide attack, the chief minister of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Amir Haider Khan Hoti, announced in a policy statement that even if militants shunned violence and laid down their weapons, they would not be pardoned.

Similarly, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani, who spoke to US President George W Bush by telephone on Thursday morning, rejected any possibility of dialogue with militants.

The above are very powerful statements from Pakistan's leadership and builds upon partnerships and plans created in the later part of 2007.

The new elected government is expected to be an active partner in the South Asian war theater and its military will help the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The coordination will be similar to that between Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government and NATO.

NATO command will identify problem areas and Pakistan will hit those targets. A plan, drawn up between the Americans and Pakistan in 2007, will be implemented under which Peshawar, capital of NWFP, will serve as a base camp from where, under American guidance, the Taliban's bases will be targeted. The Taliban use these bases to launch operations into Afghanistan.

It seems, Pakistan has finally declared war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Previously I noted that the Pakistani people elected businessmen to head the government and an insurgency is bad for business. It appears the new government has finally made the decision to rid itself of its insurgent problem. It will be interesting to watch how this situation develops.

If this article from Syed Saleem Shahzad is true, we should begin to see much more Pakistani Army involvement in the FATA and NWFP region. Recent actions in Pakistan point to the governments change of policy to include recent battles in Peshawar, Swat, and increased Predator strikes in South Waziristan.

2007 was the year in which Al Qaeda lost Iraq. I predicted 2008 will be the year Al Qaeda lost Pakistan. This battle will undoubtedly now go into 2009. A second round of troop increases will finally hit in Afghanistan in 2009 where we are likely to see the situation in Afghanistan greatly change around towards the US's favor. All of this in plenty of time for the vast majority of troops to withdraw from Iraq by 2011. What a difference 2007 was when the US committed to defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq vice withdrawing US forces under pressure. Just a little over a year later, Pakistan is now committed to the War on Terror. It needs to be remembered that Al Qaeda's last unassailable base is in Pakistan which is why this battle in the greater War on Terror will be so important to the overall war.

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U.S., Iraqi Negotiators Agree on 2011 Withdrawal

From the Washington Post.

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have agreed to the withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces from the country by the end of 2011, and Iraqi officials said they are "very close" to resolving the remaining issues blocking a final accord that governs the future American military presence here.

Iraqi and U.S. officials said several difficult issues remain, including whether U.S. troops will be subject to Iraqi law if accused of committing crimes. But the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to discuss the agreement publicly, said key elements of a timetable for troop withdrawal once resisted by President Bush had been reached.

With the current security gains in Iraq, this tentative timetable for withdrawl of US forces will allow Iraqi forces to continue to mature and secure their country from foreign intervention. US forces will be out of cities by next June. In addition, military trainers will stay in Iraq for an unspecified period of time. While not mentioned here, I am certain long-term bilateral security agreements are also in the works much as they are with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

It is much better the US is able to withdraw from Iraq under secure conditions as opposed to unsecure conditions which were present when President Bush announced the surge of US forces in January 2007.

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Bungled raid in Diyala threatens political developments, military operations

From the Long War Journal.

Recent political progress in Diyala may unravel after a botched attempt to capture a provincial official at the main governmental center in Baqubah killed an assistant to the provincial governor.

An attempt to arrest a Sunni member of the provincial parliament, Husain al Zubsidy, by a special division of the Iraqi Army went foul early on Aug. 19, causing a 30-minute firefight between the Iraqi army and local police. A special assistant to the governor of Diyala was killed in the shootout. The assistant, al Tamimi, was also a close relative of the governor of Diyala, Ra’ad Rashid al Tamini, and the killing has threatened to unhinge gains made in recent weeks.

The Long War Journal has a good analysis of recent events in Diyala.

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Al-Maliki appoints interior minister to lead Diyala probe (Extra)

From Monsters and Critics.

Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday appointed his interior minister as head of committee that will investigate Tuesday's crackdown on the Diyala province by US-led Iraqi special forces, reports said.

Jawad al-Boulani and his team would study details of the crackdown, including the raid on Diyala government headquarters in Baquba that sparked clashes in which the secretary to Diyala Governor Raad Rasheed al-Mulla was killed, according to the Voices of Iraq news agency.

A number of Diyala government officials, including Hussein al-Zubeidi, who heads Diyala's security committee, were arrested in the raid.

As part of the crackdown, US-led forces also arrested the head of Diyala University and clashed with university security guards. Four people were killed in clashes.

Al-Maliki ordered an investigation on Tuesday.

PM Maliki ordering an investigation of recent Sunni arrests in Diyala is an interesting development. Jawad al-Boulani is know for his apolitical views.

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Iraqi Sunnis outraged over Diyala raids, arrests

From Yahoo via AFP.

Iraq's largest Sunni party accused government security forces of sectarian bias Tuesday after soldiers arrested a Sunni university president and a Sunni provincial council member northeast of Baghdad.

The raids in Diyala province follow an Iraqi crackdown there against U.S.-backed Sunni Arab volunteers who turned against al-Qaida and joined the fight against the terror movement.

Yesterday, Iraqi troops raided the Provincial Governor's office, who is a Shiite, but arrested a Sunni Provincial Council member, who is a Sunni.

The troops stormed the office of the provincial governor, Raad Rashid al-Tamimi, triggering a gunfight that killed his secretary and wounded four of his guards, police said.

The Sunni head of the provincial council's security committee, Hussein al-Zubaidi, was arrested, police said.

Apparently, Iraqi troops had arrest warrants.

However, a senior Iraqi army officer who took part in the raid said troops carried arrest warrants for both the university president and the head of the security committee.

As more and more Al Qaeda in Iraq are arrested, they are undoubtedly turning up evidence implicating other members. Hopefully, these arrests are legitimate and not sectarian related.

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Musharraf quits; suspense mounts on his next move

From the Times of India.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's decision to resign on Monday brings to an end a tumultuous nine-year reign that thrived with US backing, but succumbed under impeachment threat following the first free and fair elections he conducted after grabbing power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

During his resignation speech, Musharraf said,

"I don't want anything from anybody. I have no interest. I leave my future in the hands of the nation and people," he said. One main coalition party, that of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif whom Musharraf ousted in 1999, has insisted he face trial for treason. Bhutto's party says parliament should decide. Musharraf ended his final address as president with the words: "May God protect Pakistan, may God protect you all. Long live Pakistan forever."

Given the current situation in Pakistan, this was the smartest move for Musharraf. His resignation will take away a major issue within the newly elected government and decrease Al Qaeda's/the Taliban's ability to use Musharraf's continued presence as a political tool.

However, with Musharraf out of the way, it will be seen whether the coalition between PPP and PML-N can survive or whether infighting between these two disparate parties will break out. In addition, it will be interesting to see if these parties can now band together to meet the Al Qaeda/Taliban threat in the FATA region.

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Iraqi soldiers storm Diyala governor's office, killing one

From Yahoo via AFP.

soldiers stormed the governor's office in the restive province of Diyala before dawn on Tuesday, killing his secretary and firing on local police, the governor told AFP.

The incident in the provincial capital Baquba, which occurred about 2 am (2300 GMT Monday), sparked clashes between the soldiers and local security forces which governor Raad Rasheed Mulla Jawad said had caused casualties.

"During the night, Iraqi forces from Baghdad burst into the provincial council building," arriving in Humvee armoured vehicles, said Jawad, whose province northeast of the capital remains one of Iraq's most dangerous areas.

A very interesting development in Diyala indeed.

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Iraq cracks down on US-backed fighters

From the International Herald Tribune.

The Shiite-led government is cracking down on U.S.-backed Sunni fighters in one of Iraq's most turbulent regions, arresting some leaders, disarming scores and banning them from manning checkpoints except alongside security forces.

Moves against the fighters in Diyala province reflect mixed views on a movement which began in 2007 among Sunni tribes in western Iraq that revolted against al-Qaida in Iraq and joined the Americans in the fight against the terror network.

The Iraqi government is extremely resistent to bring Sunni Son's of Iraq members into the security forces.

A top Iraqi security official with access to classified information said authorities were especially suspicious of the Diyala groups because many of their estimated 14,000 fighters had been members of al-Qaida in Iraq.

But moving against the Sunni movements could alienate the once-dominant minority Sunni Arabs at a time when overtures to them appear to be making headway.

"We fought the Americans for four years and we fought al-Qaida too," said al-Safi, a former Iraqi army commando and a veteran of the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war. "We are an experienced armed group. We are fully capable of bringing the house down."

This situation is extremely touchy. PM Maliki's successes in Basra, Sadr City, Mosul, and now Diyala make him feel he does not need to integrate the Son's of Iraq, a predominant Sunni group. The US military, on the otherhand, does not want to alienate fighters who have now switched sides and are fighting against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

A review of past insurgencies show that a country's military must be integrated and representative of all parties within the country which is why the US is pushing for the Son's of Iraq integration. PM Maliki's position is also understandable, but in direct violation of counter-insurgency principles and the reconciliation the country needs to continue to grow as a democracy. However, a review of our policies after the civil war will show not much difference between the Union's position to the South.

PM Maliki is testing fate here. Whether or not his military forces are strong enough to prevent a resurgent insurgency is to be seen. In addition, his failure to establish a SOFA with US forces may also put past successes in question. Finally, Iran is a wild card which PM Maliki cannot control.

This situation needs to be monitored closely for signs of a resurgent insurgency which Iraqi forces are unable to quell.

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ANALYSIS / Putin may have gone one step too far in Georgia

From Haaretz.

The endless movement of tanks through Georgia and the fairly lethargic response of the West so far ostensibly shows a resounding victory for Vladimir Putin. The Russian prime minister has managed to show everyone the helplessness of Europe's leaders to prevent him from carving up a sovereign state. But in Eastern Europe, the impression is growing that he attained the opposite of what he set out to do.

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