Tuesday 22 February 2011

Davis' movements tracked

The nexus between the police and the Pakistan press never ceases to amaze. Already the contents of Raymond Davis's car have been leaked, the pictures on his camera, even the film accidentally taken by his camera during the first few minutes of his interrogation. There have been stories about him in prison complaining about the call to prayers, that he is on hunger strike and much more.
Now, details of his every move since he arrived in Pakistan on 20 January have been published by the Express Tribune. His itinerary has been built up using the tracking device he had in the car, plus eye-witness reports. It appears that he arrived in Islamabad on 20 January on Qatar Airways flight QR-398 from Doha, transferring the same day to a PIA flight for the short hop to Lahore.
From the Lahore airport he went to 182/A Upper Mall, reportedly used as a US Consulate residence for the last three years. Five other Americans arrived at the residence later the same day.
The next day he reported to the Consulate where he was given the keys to a black Land Cruiser, but he returned on 24 January to exchange it for the white Honda Civic he was driving when the shooting incident occurred. At one point Davis also stayed at 59/A Cavalry Ground, another US Consulate property, where he met with some local people.
Just before the shooting incident, he had exchanged US$300 for Pakistani rupees at the World Exchange Co office on Main Boulevard, Gulberg.
Shortly after the shootings, two American officials arrived at the 182/A Upper Mall address and took away Davis' belongings. It was his ninth visit to the country since October 2009, although previously he had been based in Peshawar.
Anything else you want to know?

Latest Afghanistan Assistance guide published

The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit  has just published the ninth edition of its The A to Z Guide to Afghanistan Assistance. Electronic copies can be downloaded for free from the website or printed copies can be bought directly from AREU. This invaluable guide gives details of how the Afghan government works, a copy of the Constitution, code of conduct for NGOs working in the country, maps and hundreds of contacts working for NGOs throughout Afghanistan.

Monday 21 February 2011

Shame on you WaPo!

The Washington Post revealed today that it decided not to inform the public that Raymond Davis was a CIA agent, despite the fact that it had established this fact some time ago: "The Washington Post learned of Davis's CIA affiliation after his arrest, but agreed not to publish the information at the request of senior U.S. intelligence officials, who cited concern for Davis's safety if his true employment status were disclosed", journalist Greg Miller wrote today. "Those officials withdrew the request not to publish on Monday after other news organizations identified Davis as a CIA employee, and after U.S. officials made a final attempt to prevail upon Pakistan's government to release Davis or move him to a safer facility."
Is this what is meant by investigative journalism? Why bother? Just change your name to the Washington pussies.

Sunday 20 February 2011

An account of Colonel Imam's murder

The body of former ISI officer Colonel Imam has been found on the corner of a street in Karam Kot near Mir Ali in North Waziristan, thus proving that reports suggesting he had been killed a month ago were false and that his killing happened very recently.
Although no translation of the speech given by TTP leader Hakimullah Mahsud before Col Imam's murder has yet been published, one account has appeared in The News today. According to this account, Hakimullah blamed Col Imam and a tribal parliamentarian from Orakzai tribal region called Munir Orakzai for capturing and selling Arab fighters to the United States after they escaped from Afghanistan to seek refuge in the Pakistani tribal areas, presumably in 2001.
He said Pakistani security agencies captured 600 Arab fighters and sold them to the United States. He alleged every Arab fighter was sold for $400 to the Americans and termed it an un-Islamic act.
Bizarrely, the TTP leader also accused the retired military officer of allowing Pakistan to hand over its air base in Jacobabad in Sindh province to the United States for use during the invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime.
This is clearly untrue as Col Imam is on record as being critical of Gen Pervez Musharraf for supporting the American war on terror and allowing the use of Pakistani air bases by the US Air Force.
In the video Hakimullah also claimed that US aircraft had conducted 56,700 - where did he get that figure? - air attacks from the Jacobabad air base in Sindh into Afghanistan for which he also put all the blame on the hapless Col Imam.
Later in the video, Col Imam is made to stand up as Hakimullah directs one of his men to open fire at the elderly man. A young militant, whose face is covered, first fires shots at Col Imam’s forehead that make him fall to the ground. He then shoots him in his back and legs, and finally the colonel is shown lying in a pool of blood. In the background, armed TTP fighters can be seen standing around Hakimullah before shouting out the takbir. What a filthy business!

Saturday 19 February 2011

Hakimullah makes a fatal blunder

It is hard not to be shocked by the video issued today showing Colonel Imam being executed by a masked killer on the orders of Tehreek-e-Taliban leader Hakimullah Mahsud, who is standing just 10 feet away when the shots are fired. The boy who killed him with a pistol was barely even born when Col. Imam played a pivotal role in bringing the Afghan Taliban to power. Based in Quetta as a military trainer, he put many young Afghans through their paces as he taught them guerrilla warfare tactics that he, in turn, had learned in the United States, where he had received special forces training.
It was in Quetta that he had first befriended Mullah Omar and other future leaders of what was to become a local anti-Soviet militia around Kandahar, before developing, with extensive Pakistani help, into the Taliban movement. It was Colonel Imam who spotted the potential for the movement and convinced his superiors to back them with money, equipment and even Pakistani regular soldiers dressed as Afghans. He was with them throughout their advance on Kabul and even as they made their bloody entry into Mazar-e-Sharif.
Senior members of the Afghan Taliban are known to hold Col Imam in high regard and during his long captivity they made numerous attempts to get him released. At first, when he was being held as a captive of a group that called itself the Asian Tigers - in reality, a group of criminals and fanatics from Lashkar-e Jhangvi that went under the name of the Punjabi Taliban - these appeals fell on deaf ears.
But when this group fell out with each other, having already killed one hostage and received a ransom for another, it was Hakimullah Mahsud's Tehreek-e-Taliban that stepped in, killing the leader of the gang of kidnappers and then entering into negotiations with Col Imam's family for his release. It looked as if the Colonel would be freed. For reasons we don't yet know, that proved not to be the case.
On 23 January it was reported that Col Imam had died of a 'heart attack', while being held by the TTP. We now know that story was not true. I have not yet seen or heard a translation of what Hakimullah Mahsud said before he ordered Col Imam's killing and it probably doesn't really matter. The question now is what is likely to be the fallout from this dreadful fratricide?
In short, this is probably the worst mistake that Hakimullah has ever made. He has, at a stroke, made enemies of the Afghan Taliban, the Waziris in South Waziristan - who had already made it clear they were opposed to Col Imam's kidnap and who have pledged to revenge his death - and the Pakistan Army and ISI. He will never be forgiven for killing a man who is regarded as a national hero by many in Pakistan.
When a devout moslem and war hero like Col Imam can be killed on the whim of a bloodthirsty local tyrant like Hakimullah, it is clear that the movement he leads is heading for oblivion.

Pak Taliban confirms murder of Colonel Imam

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has confirmed it killed former ISI officer and leading supporter of the Afghan Taliban, Colonel Imam, according to numerous reports now circulating in Pakistan. They say they will release a video of his killing later today. Reports about murder of Imam - real name Sultan Amir Tarar - first surfaced on 23 January, but could not be confirmed. Some reports at the time suggested he had died of a heart attack while in captivity. He had been kidnapped along with another former ISI officer and British journalist Asad Qureshi in North Waziristan last March while attempting to facilitate the making of a documentary on the CIA's drone missile campaign.
Update:  Dawn says it has a copy of the video, which includes a statement from TTP chief Hakimullah Mahsud. However, it has not yet made the content public. The screen-grab below shows Col Imam seated on the ground, with Hakimullah standing behind him. Soon after this moment Hakimullah tells a young masked gunman to shoot Imam, which he does using a pistol.

Friday 18 February 2011

Drone campaign a casualty of Davis affair

Are poor relations between the CIA and Pakistan's ISI affecting the drone missile campaign in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)? According to statistics compiled by The Long War Journal there have been no strikes in FATA since 23 January. This is the third longest period without any strikes since the campaign was ramped up in August 2008. Although this could be due to poor weather conditions - it is winter in FATA at present - the fact that US security contractor Raymond Davis was arrested on 27 January seems to be a far more plausible explanation.
Whether this is Pakistan's ISI flexing its muscles, much as it has done in the past by blocking the border to Afghanistan and preventing military supplies reaching their destination, or (less likely) a CIA effort to put pressure on the Pakistanis, is unclear. However, tensions between the two organisations have been evident for some time. In December the CIA station chief in Islamabad had to leave the country in a hurry after he was named in a legal case brought by relatives of civilians killed by drone strikes in FATA.
Shortly before that, the head of the ISI, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was accused in a US lawsuit brought in Brooklyn by relatives of an American rabbi and his wife killed at their hostel of being involved in the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. Tit for tat? It certainly looked like it.
The Davis case is likely to make relations between the two countries get worse rather than better in the immediate future. American policy has been to exert maximum diplomatic  pressure to get their man out of jail. So far we have seen statements by the head of the CIA, President Obama, late-night phone calls from Hillary Clinton to President Zardari and a failed mission to Pakistan by Senator John Kerry to get Davis released. In addition, the Pakistan Ambassador to Washington has been threatened with being kicked out of the country and there have also been threats to cut aid to Pakistan.
The only impact all this haranguing appears to be having is to inflame public opinion in Pakistan and to destabilise the PPP government. Already the Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, has been sacked for refusing to kowtow to US pressure; he refused to concede that Davis had full diplomatic status. And extremist political parties such as the Jamat-e-Islami are saying that any attempt to give immunity to Davis will be a disgrace for the country.
Meanwhile Davis has been remanded in custody for another three weeks and the Lahore High Court has now ordered the Punjab police to arrest the driver of the second vehicle involved in the incident, which ran over and killed an innocent bystander. The court has ordered the vehicle to be impounded and put three further American consular staff on the official exit control list .
The stakes in the Davis case are already extremely high and appear to have been exacerbated by the high-handed US approach to the affair, which reeks of nineteenth century gunboat diplomacy. Extra-territoriality, as it was then called, inflamed passions against foreign powers throughout India and China at that time and nothing much has changed.
Update: Jim White at the website firedoglake has more information on Davis' background and his connections to Nevada and Colorado.

Thursday 17 February 2011

EU police training mission risks failure - report

The European Union mission to train local police in Afghanistan risks failure according to a committee report from the UK House of Lords.
The damning report, from the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy sub committee of 12 peers, chaired by Lord Teverson and including former Chief of the Defence Staff, Field Marshall Lord Inge, notes only about 285 experts had been sent by member states to train the Afghan National Police - well short of the 400 requested.
This "compared badly to the American and NATO commitment to the broader police training effort", it adds, and was already substantially below the numbers needed.
Afghanistan's police have no tradition of investigation and are often seen by ordinary citizens as predators who exist largely by extracting bribes and other forms of corruption. Up to 40% in some regional forces have been exposed as habitual users of heroin or marijuana.
But the withdrawal timetable hangs on the allied efforts to train the Afghan National Army and the police to a level at which they can maintain security - and the rule of central government - after a substantial reduction in foreign troops.
"Let's at least get up to the staffing level that we promised Afghanistan," committee chairman Lord Teverson said. "Then may be we have got a chance of fulfilling at least part of the mission. If we cannot do that then I think we should even question whether we should be there through to 2013 when the mission is supposed to end."
Police training has always been the most problematic areas in Afghanistan. Unlike the NATO programme, which is more about guarding installations, the Eu Programme is about improving police detection and solving of crimes. However, problems are dire, with the Afghan police experiencing an attrition rate of around 75 per cent in some areas. Illiteracy of police recruits is as high as 70 per cent.
Until 2009 the US, NATO and the EU ran separate programmes - and many contributing nations still have training missions which are separate from other efforts. The EU programme, known as EUPOL, is still outside of the NATO structures.
The peers said this endangered the lives of staff members who, for example, are not allowed to travel in vehicles which were not supplied by the EU. "This is not just inefficient, it is clearly unacceptable," the report states. Britain contributes about 14 officers to the EU effort and many more through NATO.
British ministers have been keen to stress that the training of the police and army has been going well. But the Lords' report observes that "great stress is laid by the NATO-led coalition on the number of police, rather than quality (as is also true for army training). Training courses tend to be short (six weeks) and emphasise the need to meet numerical targets... Six weeks of training is not enough."
They note that military withdrawal is likely to take place in 2014, but say that police training could take five to ten years longer than that. "There must be a question—and perhaps more
than a question—whether the arrangements associated with the deadlines for military withdrawal could render EUPOL ineffective and will risk the lives of serving police officers for no future effect."
The report concludes: "This has been a troubled mission undertaking a vital task in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Despite achieving local successes, overall there is a strong risk of failure."

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Terrorist violence declines in Pakistan

Pakistan witnessed an 11 per cent decrease in the number of terrorism and violence incidents in 2010, according to the fifth annual report from the Pak Institute for Peace Studies . Their annual Pakistan Security Report - the only major source on internal security in Pakistan - puts the decline down to an effective Pakistan Army military campaign in the tribal areas, increased surveillance by the law enforcement agencies and the killing of key terrorists by the US drone strikes in FATA.
The trends vary from province to province. Violent incidents increased in Sindh and Punjab compared to the previous year, but fell dramatically in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's settled areas. The PIPS report criticises the lack of long-term strategy, saying "the government continues to rely almost exclusively on military solutions to the
militancy in FATA."
The report shows that a total of 2,113 militant, insurgent and sectarian-related incidents were reported in 2010, killing 2,913 people and injuring another 5,824. To this total can be added 2,007 people killed in clashes between security forces and militants, 2,631 killed in operational attacks by security forces, 961 killed in drone attacks, 65 killed in border clashes, 660 killed in ethno-political violence and 766 killed in inter-tribal clashes. The total number killed is therefore 10,003 with another 10,283 injured. This compares to 12,623 fatalities in 2009 and another 12,815 injured.
Copies of the full report can be obtained via the PIPS website.

The price paid by children for the conflict in Afghanistan

A UN report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan makes very sad reading. It shows, for example, how children have been used by anti-government elements for suicide bombings and planting explosives, or recruited to the Afghan National Security Forces, despite official government policy banning such practices.
The report also sheds light on the detention of children for alleged association with armed groups, on the number of children killed or maimed by suicide attacks and on sexual violence committed by armed groups against boys and girls.
Figures in the report show that women and children made up a higher proportion of those killed and injured in 2010 compared to 2009, even though civilian casualties declined by 30 per cent. For example, there was a 155 per cent increase in child deaths through IEDs and suicide attacks by insurgents in the first half of 2010 compared to 2009.
The Country Task Force for Monitoring and Evaluation was able to verify 26 out of 47 reported incidents that provided evidence that children are recruited by armed groups and by the security forces, including the police.
In some cases children were unwittingly used as suicide bombers. For example, in April 2009, an improvised explosive device placed in a wheelbarrow transported by a young boy prematurely detonated 15 metres from the Governor’s office in Samangan province, killing the boy. It was later established that he knew nothing of the device.Seven cases of children recruited from across the border in Pakistan and subsequently used to conduct military operations in Afghanistan were confirmed. Several examples of young boys recruited by the Afghan National Police are included in the report.
There are around 382 children detained in Afghanistan on charges related to national security, of which 97 were confirmed as relating to the conflict; all were between 9 and 17 and included one girl. Between October 2009 and January 2010 in Helmand, eight boys aged  from 15-17 were charged with having links to the Taliban. Three were found guilty and sentenced to three years' in prison.
One notable case involved Mohammad Jawad, who was arrested in his early teens and detained for six years in Guantanamo, but returned to Afghanistan in August 2009. Since his return to Afghanistan, he has been arrested three times by the National Directorate of Security and held in their custody, allegedly for links with ex-prisoners from Guantanamo Bay suspected of still belonging to armed opposition groups in Afghanistan.
During the two years covered by the report 1,795 children were injured or killed as a result of conflict-related violence, although this is likely to be an under-estimate. In addition, 568 children were injured or killed as a result of landmines. At least nine children have been executed by the Taliban on suspicion of being spies.
A total of 131 children were reported killed in 2009 as a result of Coalition airstrikes, mostly in the south.
This is a very powerful report on a subject that receives little or no coverage. It makes it clear that the children of Afghanistan are paying a very high price for the conflict in their country.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

German Islamists try to justify their existence

The NEFA Foundation has published the transcript of a statement written in German from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan which reads like a kind of end of term report for last year. Dozens of Germans Islamists of Arab and Turkish origin have settled in Pakistan's tribal territories where they are in an uneasy alliance with both al-Qaeda and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
Written by Abu Adam al-Almani - in reality German national Mounir Chouka - the statement confirms the dependency of this organisation on money and support from Germany - although as Chouka notes: "in recent times lots of brothers, including German mujahidin, opened the gates to martyrdom." These include, for example, Abu Askar from Hamburg and the German-Turkish Abu Imran, who were settling down for breakfast with three Mahsud tribesmen from the TTP on 4 October last year when they were hit by a drone missile strike. "All five were eating together, when a sneaky US drone shot a rocket right into the middle of them", says Abu Adam.
Abu Adam's statement claims that Bekkay Harrach, a prominent German Moroccan jihadist, was killed last April during a joint al-Qaeda, IMU and TTP attack on the massive US base at Bagram, north of Kabul. It says 20 mujahidin took part in what was effectively a suicide operation, in the process killing 200 defenders - a claim that is clearly untrue. Detailed videos of the operation will soon be released, says Abu Adam.
Interestingly, Abu Adam is forced to answer the question he says he gets in emails "all the time" from "all over the world" about whether or not Pakistan's tribal areas are still a place that Islamists should come and fight. Even many dedicated Islamists are beginning to wonder if the carnage in Pakistan can really be justified by their religion.
Abu Adam notes the lies and confusion about what is going on there and reports that there are many spies betraying the jihadists, saying that "the spy who nailed down the honored (al-Qaeda) commander Abu Laith al-Shahid al-Libi, ...was paid $50,000 in a Pakistani camp" and that in the first part of 2009 the drones killed a lot of jihadis. He justifies the decision to attack the Pakistan army on the basis that it is supporting the drone attacks. The Pakistan army was able to clear much of Waziristan of jihadis by a merciless bombardment and clearance which left only the jihadis in the hills, fighting a guerrilla war. Now that the families have left the area, says Abu Adam, it is still a place for Hijra.
There are three combat areas, he says: Orakzai, South-east Waziristan and South-west Waziristan. Then he  presents his statistics which purport to show that in the last year the IMU has mounted a total of 330 attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan which have killed 373 Pakistani soldiers, destroyed 5 tanks and 36 cars. In Afghanistan they claim to have carried out a total of 88 attacks, killing 145 NATO soldiers and 125 ANA soldiers. They says they have destroyed 25 armoured cars, shot down two drones and captured two prisoners.
Abu Adam does not mention the hatred that is felt for them by many Pashtuns in the tribal areas, nor the fact that they were driven out of Waziristan by the Waziri tribesmen themselves. That does not fit with his view of the 'pure' brotherhood fighting the infidels.

Friday 11 February 2011

Raymond Davis case gets messier.

The Raymond Davis case in Lahore is getting messier and messier. Today he was remanded in custody for a further two weeks as police rejected his explanation that he had killed two men in self-defence. Former special forces soldier Davis, who shot the two men a total of eight times through the windscreen of his hired car on 26 January, claims he was working as a consultant to the US consulate in Lahore. In his pocket he carried business cards for a company called Hyperion Protective Consultants of Orlando, Florida.
However, an investigation by Counterpunch magazine in the United States has revealed that the address for the company is an empty shop front and that the phone numbers and website are fake. They also point out that Davis was able to shoot both men twice in the front and twice in the back before stepping out of his rented car to photograph the results on his mobile phone. Police who searched the car found a loaded Glock pistol gun and three full magazines, plus the Beretta used to kill the men, along with other paraphernalia associated with special forces operations.
There is also a strong suggestion coming from witnesses in Lahore that the second vehicle involved in the incident in which a third man was run down and killed was not responding to an emergency call from him but was actually with Davis at the time of the shooting. According to this scenario, the bystander was killed as the second vehicle fled the scene at speed, hitting other cars in the street and knocking down the unfortunate person.The driver of the second vehicle is being sought by the Pakistani police, but it is likely he or she has long since left the country.
Proof that Davis photographed the two men he had just shot dead comes from Dunya TV, which has published what it claims are still photos from Davis' camera, plus some video of part of his interrogation bythe Lahore police. The film appears to have been shot from a mobile phone lying on a table in front of Davis.You can see the footage here or on YouTube.
As more and more evidence comes to light it is becoming clear that this incident was no simple attempted robbery. Davis was fully tooled up, in an unmarked, rented car with a back-up vehicle. He opened fire and expertly shot dead the two men on a motorbike. Eveyone knows this now and the room for political manoeuvre is shrinking by the minute.
One theory, examined by ABC reporter Nick Schifrin, is that the two dead men were actually ISI (Pakistan intelligence service) agents, tasked to trail Davis. If that is true, there will be no quick end to this affair.

Thursday 10 February 2011

US aid strategy in Pakistan beset with problems.

US-Pakistan relations are in a mess. When Raymond Davis, a US Embassy employee, allegedly shot dead two men on a motorbike in Lahore on 26 January, he precipitated a major crisis. Despite threats from US Congressmen to cut aid to Pakistan unless Davis is released, the Pakistani government will find it difficult to bow to pressure, knowing full well that there will be a swift and bloody reaction if Davis is allowed to leave the country.
Davis should never have been armed - it is illegal in Pakistan and has already been the source of previous tensions between the two countries - and his apparent crime was compounded when another US Embassy vehicle ran over and killed a bystander while responding to a call for help from Davis. Since then, the widow of one of the dead men has also committed suicide. Further problems have been caused by the failure of US officials to offer a clear explanation of what Davis was doing in Pakistan.
Will the US go ahead with its threat to cut its aid budget? That is not certain, but a recent report on USAID's programme in Pakistan makes it clear that there are serious problems in that quarter too. The Quarterly Progress and Oversight Report on the Civilian Assistance Program in Pakistan, as of December 31, 2010, which is a joint publication of the State Department, Department of Defense and USAID, makes for sobering reading. Despite a $1.5bn annual budget, USAID "has not committed to a set of performance indicators to measure the success of its programs as traditionally required for proper project management". Not has the US Embassy in Islamabad identified any indicators by which to measure the success of the development strategy.
Various inspection offices have been set up in Pakistan to guard against inefficiency and corruption, but research from specific projects suggest waste and inefficiency is widespread.
For example, during the last quarter of last year, the USAID inspectors completed four audits, including performance audits of two livelihood development projects in FATA designed to counter the growing threat from militants. The audits found that little progress had been achieved, partly due to lack of security, but mainly because of a lack of baseline data and inadequate oversight. Costs of three-quarters of a million dollars have been identified as ineligible.
In another project, USAID broke off relations with the partner - the US-based Academy for Educational Development - after investigations revealed "fraud stemming from false statements and claims, failure to perform in accordance with the terms of the agreement, and violation of statutory or regulatory provisions contained in the agreement." AED's president, chief executive and four other senior executives have been forced to leave the organisation. (Note: they have not been prosecuted).
The report says USAID's work has been disrupted by Wikileaks - which revealed private diplomatic thinking (mostly negative) about Pakistan - and by the death of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There is some very useful material in this report, which breaks down the aid budget for the last three years into categories. This we find that $40 million has been spent on road construction in FATA and $82.9 million on "Border Security (Aviation), while only $8.5 million has been spent on counter-narcotics. There is also a good breakdown of how $570 million was spent providing humanitarian assistance after the devastating floods of last summer that displaced over 20 million people.
There are also many details of various high-profile aid projects, including roads, schools, water and electricity infrastructure. However, as the report notes: "One year after the launch of the civilian assistance strategy in Pakistan, USAID has not been able to demonstrate measurable progress."

Monday 7 February 2011

Taliban and al-Qaeda 'distinct groups with different goals'

"The Taliban and al-Qaeda remain distinct groups with different goals, ideologies and sources of recruits; there was considerable friction between them before September 11, 2001, and today that friction persists."
This is one of the main findings of a study of the relationship between the two organisations, published today by the Centre on International Cooperation and written by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn.
Separating the Taliban from Al-Qaeda: the core of success in Afghanistan also argues that elements of current US policy in Afghanistan - especially night raids, house searches and attempts to fragment the Taliban - are "changing the insurgency and inadvertently creating opportunities for al-Qaeda to achieve its objectives and preventing the achievement of core goals of the United States and the international community".
The authors argue that there is room to engage the Taliban on renouncing their relationship with al-Qaeda and providing guarantees against the use of Afghanistan by international terrorism.
These findings are worthy of notice, not least because the authors, who have spent several years as almost the only Westerners living in Kandahar, are well equipped to know the views of the Afghan Taliban. They edited Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef's autobiography, My Life with the Taliban and have access to people who are close to the Taliban leadership.
They point out that the original Taliban leadership around Mullah Omar was never very close to Osama bin Laden and that he exploited his friendship with regional leaders, in particular with the Haqqani clan, and ultimately betrayed the trust shown to him by Mullah Omar. But as military attrition has hit the Taliban, a new younger generation of fighters, radicalised by the events following 9/11, is now in place and more sympathetic to the al-Qaeda programme of international jihad. This nexus is being intensified as a result of current US policy in Afghanistan.
This short paper is well worth reading, although it is limited in its scope. It does not, for example, go into much details of the links between the Haqqani clan and the Arab fighters around bin Laden or indeed the other foreign fighters based in Pakistan's tribal territories. Nor does it discuss the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. More information is certainly needed on these relationships.