This blog aims to highlight issues and information that don't always make it into the mainstream media. Recognising that comment is cheap, wherever possible it will link you directly to documents and sources that are mentioned in the text.
I realised some time ago that it was impossible to write about Afghanistan without writing about Pakistan and other neighbouring countries. With that in mind, the reader will come across articles that, while not specifically about Afghanistan, in some way shed light on the conflict.
US security writer John Stanton has written many articles over the last few years on the US Army's Human Terrain System, some of which have been referenced by this blog. Now 115 of his pieces have been published as a collection. The US Army Terrain System 2008-2013: The Program from Hell costs just $6.66 (ooh er!!), but is worth every penny.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction continues to publish the results of investigations into contracting fraud. The latest, Improvised Explosive Devices: Unclear whether culvert denial systems to protect troop are functioning or were ever installed, doesn't wait for the punchline to let you know the result. The report points out that IEDs are increasingly popular with the insurgents, with IED events increasing from 9,300 in 2009 to 16,000 in 2011 - an increase of 42 per cent. To combat IEDs, roads are now built with culvert denial systems - in fact, reinforced metal bars embedded in concrete - to prevent explosives being laid in the drainage channels. A preliminary SIGAR inquiry has now found that at least two Afghan contractors, with contracts of at least $1 million, have committed fraud by billing the US government for the installation of 250 culvert denial systems that were either never installed or incorrectly installed. Both have been arrested and charged with fraud and negligent homicide. SIGAR says it has not been able to determine the total number of such contracts, although they says that "From our review of these contracts, we identified at least 2500 specific grid points where culvert denial systems were supposed to be installed, though with the lack of quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) documentation in the contract files, it is not clear how many of those culvert denial systems were actually completed."
I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the Abbottabad Commission report is one of the most important documents to have come out of Pakistan for many years. It is full of insights into how Pakistan really operates - public officials that appear to know little about their specialist area, numerous examples of gross incompetence, buck-passing and massive corruption. Here are a few more snippets. However, I urge readers to read a copy of the report, even if, by all accounts, the final version was watered down to placate the Army and intelligence services.
Para 135 - "Major Aziz's remarks about Lt Col Saeed Iqbal are potentially significant as they could reveal about CIA network in Pakistan. Lt Col. Saeed Iqbal, according to Major Aziz employed former ISI employhees in his security business. Although he appears to be a very suspicious person and may well have played an active role in facilitating the Abbottabad incident, the ISI informed the Commission that neither Major Aziz nor Lt Col. Saeed, despite their suspicious background play any such role. This conclusion is somewhat strange as Saeed Iqbal left Pakistan immediately after the incident and attempted to sell his properties."
Para 149 - "At minimum, police or security/intelligence officials should have noticed a few other things. There were no visitors to the OBL Compound. There were no television cable or telephone lines. No rubbish was collected. There were 18 feet high walls at places and barbed wire. There was a 7-foot screening on the top wall. This was a security feature, not a purdah requirement. The children did not go to school. The size of the Compound expanded over time. There were no security guards. None of this negligence necessarily implied connivance. But it does suggest gross negligence at the very least."
Para 187 - "The Home Secretary (of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa -ed) and the civilian administration were similarly out of the loop despite their clear responsibilities. Their actual role in counter-terrorism was at best marginal, and in the tracking of OBL it was precisely zero. While there can be no excuse for this 'acceptance of realities' by senior officials, it has to be noted that they functioned in a very perverse political and administrative environment in which insistence on the correct performance of duty was often rewarded with severe punishment."
Para 217-220 - "During the seminar Afridi (Dr Shakeel Afridi) said he met the head of Save the Children, an Australian named Mr Michael McGrath...He said he wanted to launch a Save the Children Program in Bara and asked for Afridi's advice. He suggested to Afridi they meet in Islamabad to discuss the matter in greater detail... McGrath appeared very concerned that no more than 5 per cent of the funds were being used properly. The rest was pocketed by various people. He asked for Afridi's assistance and offered to pay him for his efforts. He also wanted to know why Mangalbagh opposed the STC program. He wanted to know who funded Mangalbagh and who were in his Shura. He said Save the Children would request the Government of Pakistan to clear the area of extremists opposed to the program. After a few meetings in Islamabad, Afridi said he was introduced by McGrath to an American woman called 'Kate'. Afridi assumed responsibility for various components of the Save the Children Prorgam including hepatitis which was on the rise in FATA. A vaccination program was launched in FATA which was very successful.... During the whole of 2010 he regularly met 'Kate'. Their meetings took place at a USAID warehouse the location of which Afridi did not know because he claimed he was always taken there in a vehicle with tinted glass windows."
Para 233 - "Only a fair trial based on due process can establish the extent and nature of his (Dr Shakeel Afridi's) involvement. While he should stand trial, convicting him on trumped up charges by a government-sponsored tribal jirga was not a proper course as it completely undermined the credibility of the country and its judicial process It was a travesty which allowed critics to argue the government had no real case against Afridi. The Commission, on the contrary, finally believes Afridi in fact has a case to answer."
Here are some more quotes from the Abbottabad Commission report, to date the most comprehensive account of bin Laden' stay in that city. The report is a goldmine of information which indicates that there is still much that is unknown about bin Laden's movements and connections in Pakistan.
"They (the wives and children of bin Laden-ed) were able to take only a few possessions with them. Of their valuables they could find nothing except for two or three gold 'biscuits' of ten tolas each. The Americans had taken away a jewel box with twenty gold biscuits and two gold lockets with emeralds. They also took a purse that contained the will of Osama bin Laden. Khairiyyah (bin Laden's eldest wife-ed) had previously read the will but did not wish to divulge the details. She said it was not political and pertained only to personal and family related matters. Other reports suggested that the will said his children should not seek the leadership of al-Qaeda."
"Ibrahim, (one of bin Laden's two guards in Abbottabad) had been with him ever since he was introduced to him by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Ibrahim and KSM had practically grown up together in Kuwait and were as close as brothers."
"During their six-year stay in Abbottabad, Maryam (Ibrahim's wife) never once saw OBL!"
"With regard to the capture of the Bali bomber Umar Patek in Abbottabad reportedly in January 2011, it was very likely that his al-Qaeda support network had contact with the al-Qaeda network of support for OBL. The local ISI did not probe this possibility although it had been tracking al-Qaeda in the area for at least two years. During this time it did not solicit the cooperation of the civil administration including the police. The interrogation of the Umar Patek network members should have turned up actionable information. What had brought Umar Patek to Abbottabad? Had he come to meet OBL as his Indonesian interrogators later claimed? ....It seems the ISI never developed any real intelligence on what Umar Patek had come to Abbottabad for beyond the romantic story of going to Afghanistan to seek martyrdom. Moreover, Abbottabad does not lie on the usual routes to Afghanistan....It would seem very likely that Patek, despite his denial, had come to seek instructions or inspiration from OBL."
Here is the text of the letter sent by Pakistan Taliban member Adnan Rasheed to Malala Yousafzai via Pakistani journalists:
IN THE NAME OF ALLAH THE MOST MERACIFULL [sic] AND BENEFICEINT [sic] From Adnan Rasheed to Malala Yousafzai: Peace to those who follow the guidance Miss Malala Yousafzai, I am writing to you in my personal capacity [and] this may not be
the opinion or policy of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or other jihadi
faction or group. I heard about you through BBC Urdu service for the first time
when I was in Bannu Prison. At that time I wanted to write to you, to
advise you to refrain from the anti-Taliban activities you were involved
in. But I could not find your address and I was still thinking whether
to approach you with real or pseudonym, as all my emotions were
brotherly for you because we belong to same Yousafzai tribe. Meanwhile the prison break happened and I was supposed to be in
hiding. When you were attacked it was shocking for me and I wished it
would never happened and that I had advised you before the Taliban
attacked you. Was it Islamically [sic] correct or wrong, or you deserved
to be killed or not, I will not go into this argument now—let’s leave
it to Allah Almighty, as He is the best judge. Here I want to advise you
as I am already late, I wish I would have advised you in my prison time
and this accident would never happened. First of all please mind that Taliban never attacked you because
of going to school or you were education lover, also please mind that
Taliban or mujahideen are not against the education of any men or women
or girl. The Taliban believe that you were intentionally writing against
them and running a smear campaign to malign their efforts to establish
Islamic system in Swat and your writings were provocative. You said in
your speech yesterday that pen is mightier than sword, so they attacked
you for your sword not for your books or school. There were thousands of
girls who were going to school and college before and after the Taliban
insurgency in Swat. Would you explain why were only you on their hit
list??? Now to explain to you the second point, why Taliban are blowing
up schools? The answer to this question is that not only Taliban in KPK
or FATA are blowing up the schools but Pakistan Army and Frontier
Constabulary is equally involved in this issue. The reason for this
action is common between them that schools are being turned into
hideouts and transit camps once [an area] comes under control of either
party—the Pakistan Army or Taliban. In 2004 I was in Swat, I was
researching on the causes of failure of the first revolution attempt by
Sufi Muhammad. I came to know that FC was stationed in the schools of
Swat in tehsil Matta and FC was using schools as their transit camps and
hideouts. Now tell me who is to blame??? Dozens of schools and colleges
are being used by Pakistan Army and FC as their barracks in FATA, you
can find out easily if you like. So when something sacred is turned
lethal it needs to be eliminated this is the policy of Taliban. Blowing up schools when they are not being used strategically is
not the Taliban’s job, some black sheep of local administration may be
involved to extract more and more funds in the name of schools to fill
their bank accounts. Now I come to the main point that is EDUCATION, it is amazing
that you are shouting for education, you and the UNO is pretending that
as you were shot due to education, although this is not the reason, be
honest, not the education but your propaganda was the issue and what you
are doing now, you are using your tongue on the behest of the others
and you must know that if the pen is mightier than the sword then tongue
is sharper and the injury of sword can be hailed but the injury of the
tongue never hails and in wars tongue is more destructive than any
weapon. I would like to share with you that Indian subcontinent was
highly educated and almost every citizen was able to read or write
before British invasion. Locals used to teach British officers Arabic,
Hindi, Urdu and Persian. Almost every mosque was acting as school too
and Muslim emperors used to spend a huge sum of money on education.
Muslim India was rich in farming, silk, and jute and from textile
industry to shipbuilding. No poverty, no crises and no clashes of
civilization or religion. Because the education system was based on
noble thoughts and noble curriculum. I want to draw your attention to an extract from the minutes
written by Sir T. B. Macaulay to British parliament dated Feb. 2, 1835
about what type of education system is required in Indian subcontinent
to replace the Muslim education system. He stated: “We must at present
do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the
millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and color,
but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” This was and this is the plan and mission of this so called
education system for which you are ready to die, for which UNO takes you
to their office to produce more and more Asians in blood but English in
taste, to produce more and more Africans in color but English in
opinion, to produce more and more non English people but English in
morale. This so called education made Obama, the mass murder, your
ideal. Isn’t it? Why [do] they want to make all human beings English? Because
Englishmen are the staunch supporters and slaves of Jews. Do you know
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder and symbol of English education in
India was a freemason. You say a teacher, a pen and a book can change
the world, yes I agree with, but which teacher which pen and which book?
It is to be specified, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said I am
sent as a teacher, and the book He sent to teach is Quran. So a noble
and pious teacher with prophetic curriculum can change the world not
with satanic or secular curriculum. You have given the example that once a journalist asked a student
why a talib is afraid of this education. He replied a talib didn’t know
what was in this book. The same I say to you and through you to whole
world that why they afraid from the book of Allah because they don’t
know what is in it. Taliban want to implement what is in the book of
ALLAH and UNO want to implement what they have in manmade books. We want
to connect the world to their creator through the book of Allah and UNO
want to enslave the world to few evil creatures. You have talked about justice and equality from the stage of an
unjust institution. The place where you were standing uttering for
justice and equality, all the nations are not equal there, only five
wicked states have the veto power and rest of them are powerless, dozens
of time when all the world untied [sic] against the Israel only one
veto was enough to press the throat of justice. The place you were speaking to the world is heading towards new
world order, I want to know what is wrong [with] the old world order?
They want to establish global education, global economy, global army,
global trade, global government and finally global religion. I want to
know is there any space for the prophetic guidance in all above global
plans? Is there any space for Islamic shariah or Islamic law which U.N.
call inhumane and barbaric? You have talked about attack on polio team,
would you explain why the then American foreign secretary of state Henry
Kissinger, a Jew, said in 1973 to reduce the third world population by
80%. Why the sterilization and eugenics programs are running in
different countries in one way or another under the umbrella of UNO.
More than 1 million Muslim women have been sterilized in Uzbekistan
forcibly without their consent. Bertrand Russell writes in his book, The Impact of Science on
Society: “Diet, injections and injunctions will combine, from a very
early age, to produce the sort of character and sort of beliefs that the
authorities consider desirable and any serious criticism of power that
be will become psychologically impossible.” This is why we have the reservation on so called polio
vaccination program. You say Malala Day is not your day, it is the day
of every person who has raised voice for their rights, I ask you why
such a day in not assigned to Rachel Corrie, only because the bulldozer
was Israeli? Why such a day in not assigned to Afia Siddiqa because the
buyers are Americans? Why such day is not assigned to Faizan and Faheem
because the killer was Raymond Davis? Why such a day in not assigned to
those 16 innocent Afghan women and children who were shot dead by an
American Robert Bales because he was not a Talib. I ask you and be honest in reply, if you were shot but Americans
in a drone attack, would world have ever heard updates on your medical
status? Would you be called ‘daughter of the nation’? Would the media
make a fuss about you? Would General Kayani have come to visit you and
would the world media be constantly reporting on you? Would you be
called to U.N.? Would a Malala Day be announced? More than 300 innocent
women and children have been killed in drones attacks but who cares
because attackers are highly educated, non-violent, peaceful Americans. I wish the compassion you learnt from Prophet Muhammad (peace be
upon him) should be learnt by Pakistan Army so they could stop shedding
of Muslim blood in FATA and Balochistan. I wish, the compassion you
learnt from Prophet Jesus should be learnt by the U.S. and NATO so they
should stop shedding blood of innocent Muslims across the world and I
wish the same for followers of Buddha to stop killing of innocent
unarmed Muslims in Burma, and Sri Lanka and wish the same for Indian
Army to follow Gandhi jee and stop genocide in Kashmir, and yes, the
followers of Bacha Khan, the ANP has an example of non-violence in their
five years regime in KPK province, for example Swat, where a single
shot was not fired and we witnessed the followers of Bacha Khan
implemented the philosophy of nonviolence in its true soul, with support
of jets, tanks and gunships. At the end I advise you to come back home, adopt the Islamic and
Pushtoon culture, join any female Islamic madrassah near your hometown,
study and learn the book of Allah, use your pen for Islam and plight of
Muslim ummah and reveal the conspiracy of tiny elite who want to enslave
the whole humanity for their evil agendas in the name of new world
order. All praises to Allah, the creator of the universe. July 15, 2013.
"When OBL moved about the Compound he wore a cowboy hat to avoid detection from above." "OBL apparently did not discuss political matters with his wives. The elder wives were well educated and were said to have postgraduate degrees in Arabic literature and Islamic studies respectively." "The family of OBL did not mix or socialise with the families of Abrar and Ibrahim (his Pashtun couriers-Ed). The children did not play together. There was in fact a wall separating them."