September 30th, 2010

Pakistan shuts Khyber Pass
to US war machine as
September to Remember closes

Ed Note: See here for background reaching back to August 2008, when the CIA commenced bombing Pakistan with drone missiles.

And see comments below to follow events henceforth, including the Peace Talks that turned out to have been attended by a Flim Flam Man in the guise of the Taliban. How long can this travesty go on?



Pakistan today closed off the main Khyber Pass portal that the US and its meagre coalition-of-the-willing use to supply their war efforts in Afghanistan, after the latest of recent US helicopter attacks killed three uniformed Paki servicemen.

Across the three days prior to the latest attack, Islamabad had expressed outrage at the helicopter raids, which at that point had killed many civilians among some sixty dead.

As the border closing was announced,

The Pakistani interior minister, Rehman Malik indicated that NATO strikes in Pakistan were being taken extremely seriously. “We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies,” he said Thursday.

The move to challenge the Americans also comes just two days after Pakistan’s top generals and American officials all expressed loud displeasure with the Islamabad government led by Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari:

American officials, too, say it has left them increasingly disillusioned with Mr. Zardari, a deeply unpopular president who was elected two and a half years ago on a wave of sympathy after the assassination of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. …

In a meeting on Monday that was played on the front page of Pakistan’s newspapers, the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, confronted the president and his prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, over incompetence and corruption in the government.

According to the press and Pakistani officials familiar with the conversation, the general demanded that they dismiss at least some ministers in the oversized 60-member cabinet, many of whom face corruption charges.

The civilian government has so far resisted the general’s demand. But the meeting was widely interpreted by the Pakistani news media, which has grown increasingly hostile to the president, as a rebuke to the civilian politicians and as having pushed the government to the brink.

After the meeting, the president’s office issued a statement, approved by all the men, saying they had agreed “to protect the democratic process and to resolve all issues in accordance with the constitution.”

A Pakistani official close to the president who was familiar with the conversation but did not want to be identified, said, “The president made it clear that he would not leave, come what may.”

“Sanity had prevailed,” the official added. …

In his most recent visit to Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, the American special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the international community could not be expected to provide all the billions of dollars needed to repair the flood damage, a warning interpreted here as a rebuke of the civilian government and its mismanagement.

But Washington, not unlike Pakistan’s military, is caught, American officials say, because there is no appetite for a return of military rule. Nor is there desire to see the opposition politician and former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, resume power.

The last is interesting in that Sharif would be popular and even more difficult for Washington to control. But the Times report reports he has no interest in stepping up at the moment given the general chaos.

So it seems that just as Washington has abandoned President Karzai in favor of a perhaps imaginary reprise of Northern Alliance (non-Pashtun) so-called warlords, so across the border it may be looking for a collection of Men We Can Work With.

And as Fletcher Prouty pointed out (while discussing the assassination of President Diem of Vietnam in 1963), when Washington withdraws support of an allied leader, the latter’s native enemies soon swarm and conduct a coup. This may be the week that President Zardari became a walking dead man slated to join his wife in martyrdom. Or perhaps friends in Paris.

Along those lines, note that two weeks ago, September 17, in London, emigre Paki leader Imran Farooq was murdered, leading to great unease in Karachi (the New York of Pakistan), where the MQM party, which he once led and still helped manage, is a major power:

As [Robert Mackey's] colleague Carlotta Gall explained last week, the M.Q.M. represents families who moved to what is today Pakistan when India was partitioned in 1947:

“Political power struggles in the country’s sprawling port city of Karachi have degenerated into an ethnic turf war between two parties in the governing coalition, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, whose support base is drawn from Urdu-speaking immigrants, and the Awami National Party, whose base is mostly Pashtun. Targeted killings left 165 dead people in August, including some senior political figures.

Now tens of thousands of people displaced by the floods, most of them ethnic Sindhis, are arriving in Karachi, adding a volatile new element to the political dynamic there. While Sindhi nationalists are welcoming them, opponents, like M.Q.M. members, warn that they will create more violence.”

In 2007, the BBC explained that the M.Q.M.’s leaders have effectively run large parts of Karachi from London for years. At the time, a party spokesman said it was not necessary for the city’s leaders to actually be in Pakistan, since, “in these days of high-tech communication why not govern Karachi from London? It’s a new form of outsourcing.”

And note that two days before Farooq was killed, the former Paki president General Pervez Musharraf announced he would return from friendly exile to start a new political party.

Meanwhile the long delayed NATO offensive to cleanse Kandahar of people who don’t side with the Kabul government of Karzai (whom the americans themselves have been steadily defaming for more than a year) seems to have muddled but continues. It began in mid August. Two days ago the American commander Petraeus told the press of peace talks of some sort . between Karzai and that loose coalition of unwilling various Afghans in arms referred to in the press as the Taliban.

All this comes against the great disaster of the summer in Pakistan — flooding of biblical proportions, which the western world reacted to largely with a yawn, but which since beginning in late July has (says the Times) “ruined just about every physical strand that knit this country together — roads, bridges, schools, health clinics, electricity and communications.”

Has Pakistan this September, under such pressures, begun to cease to exist as the state we’ve dealt with since the Soviet invasion next door?

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  1. ed says:

    NATO says the helicopter attack that precipitated the border shutdown (and killed three Paki uniformed servicemen) was a defensive incursion (cross border). SOS.

    September 30th, 2010 at 6:20 pm

  2. ed says:

    The Times evening story is somewhat more detailed:

    September 30th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

  3. ed says:

    Counterpunch today comments on the protracted drone campaign and Obama’s man in the region, RIchard Holbrooke.

    September 30th, 2010 at 7:41 pm

  4. ed says:

    The drone missile bombing in Pakistan began in August 2008 as a CIA project — and should be understood at least in part as something of a desperate grasp by CIA for a Raison D’etre in the post 9/11 world that has seen the NSA and Signals Intelligence rebound with avengence from their post Cold War doldrums and budget cuts.

    Take away the drone program — as Team Obama threatened to do earlier this year in the wake of the ludicrous disaster at Khost (where the CIA targeting team allowed itself to be concentrated in a tent and blown to bits) — and what would the CIA do? The parallels to Vietnam here are more than merely interesting.

    September 30th, 2010 at 7:52 pm

  5. ed says:

    During the first night after the border closing … Fireworks.

    Some 40 NATO fuel and other trucks, sitting at the closed border, have been torched.

    October 1st, 2010 at 11:02 am

  6. ed says:

    Bob Woodward’s new mouthpiece book, OBAMA’S WARS, quotes Robert Gates telling Karzai this past May that the US is “not ever leaving” Afghanistan.

    October 1st, 2010 at 10:53 pm

  7. ed says:

    Interesting. A group of protesters outside a stateside base where the Pakistan drone attacks are organized are on trial for trespassing on the base, in peaceful protest, and the trial this week … enlarged.

    Ramsay Clark and two others testified on behalf of the defendants.

    October 2nd, 2010 at 10:50 pm

  8. ed says:

    The third major attack on the idled NATO supply trucks. Several dozen more torched.

    Meanwhile the US issues an official apology for the killing of three uniformed Pakis (which directly precipitated the border closing).

    October 6th, 2010 at 5:23 pm

  9. ed says:

    Both European and Paki intel sources say the US warnings about terror in Europe last week were politically motivated and not based on new information.

    Perhaps an American ground invasion of the Tribal Areas and Waziristan is being cooked — as anticipated two years ago when then CIA chief Hayden gave a speech more or less declaring war on Pakistan:

    October 7th, 2010 at 12:41 pm

  10. ed says:

    Senate Armed Svcs Committee investigators issue report saying PEntagon routinely hires Taliban-connected security guards to patrol US bases et al.

    One cannot have a clue Over There … An old story about imperial warfare. Hopeless.

    October 7th, 2010 at 10:08 pm

  11. ed says:

    The NS Advisor abruptly resigns. Noise that he talked too much to Woodward (for the recent book, OBAMA’S WARS).

    He was a good guy it seems. His assistant is the replacement.

    May simply be Obama following his No Drama rule. Which, if so, would be dumb in this case.

    October 8th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

  12. ed says:

    Yet another attack on NATO oil and supply trucks. 29 torched. 10 gunmen responsible.

    October 9th, 2010 at 12:52 am

  13. ed says:

    confirmation from kabul of talks with taliban leaders. petraeus mentioned same about four weeks ago

    October 14th, 2010 at 9:57 am

  14. ed says:

    I wonder if the threat of peace breaking out is an illusion nurtured to influence the US congressional elections.

    Maybe “the taliban” would rather see the Donkeys hold on in the House.

    Just a thought. Something in the neighborhood of proof may be found in the post election day pudding. If the talks go dead, perhaps they were indeed electioneering.

    October 15th, 2010 at 7:28 pm

  15. ed says:

    I guess this lead paragraph on a Times story is a roundabout way of reporting that the much ballyooed offensive on Kandahar has failed.

    Or what, if not that?

    KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — As American troops mount a critical operation this weekend in the campaign to regain control in Kandahar, they face not only the Taliban but also a frustrated and disillusioned population whose land has been devastated by five years of fighting.

    October 17th, 2010 at 12:46 am

  16. ed says:

    More on the ongoing peace talks — with leaders coming out of Pakistan with NATO help to talk with Karzai’s government across the border.

    The Times reported speculation in an earlier piece (a few comments above) as to why Tali leaders all over the place are suddenly interested in peace — to wit, that they fear the enlarged US presence may make things untenable for them.

    That on its face seems less than credible, given the August 2011 kiss-off date (even though Team Obama has across the past summer backpedalled it to drawdown rather than pullout).

    One wonders, again, how much is electioneering.

    If the movement is serious, publicizing this cooperative transit of tribal/factional leaders might endanger them and the process. Is it being leaked to help the Donkeys do better in November?

    However that may be, it’s an interesting development. Let’s see if it endures beyond election day.

    October 19th, 2010 at 11:11 pm

  17. ed says:


    A Guardian story reporting what I surmised above: that reports of peace talks are largely hype for the short-term, exaggerating long-established Standard Operating Procedure (horse trading weapons, prisoners, other goods) to give the impression of NATO/Kabul progress.

    Interesting to note the Guardian cites and criticizes the Times story yesterday accusing Karzai yet again of Corruption.

    Well it should be criticized. Unnamed sources there are the same old american shitheads who’ve been trying to strip the Kabul center of power since 2007 or so, when the Likud Lobby gave up the Democracy ad campaign in favor of Men (from the north) We Can Work With.

    Same old stuff.

    Or shall we see something new under the sun, once the US elections are over? Doubt it a fortiori.

    October 24th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

  18. ed says:

    And meanwhile note that victory at Kandahar was declared by Washington about two weeks ago.

    One hopes that too is not illusion. But The Enemy over there has a way of receding and returning like the ocean. Or oceans of sand.

    October 24th, 2010 at 6:47 pm

  19. ed says:

    WSJ says US looking to expand CIA war in Pakistan. Some Pakistan sources say sure.

    October 24th, 2010 at 8:51 pm

  20. ed says:

    Karzai says OF COURSE we get money from Iran. Iran, the US, etc. It’s all the same.

    He also said the Americans have long known that his government gets aid from Iran.

    He called the Times report of same the day before an attempt to defame his government. I agree (as noted in the third comment above). Washington has been trying to defame the Kabul government with “corruption” charges ever since Bush-Cheney-Wolfowitz & co. cancelled the Good Morning Democracy in Afghanistan advertising campaign.

    It’s astounding to me that Karzai has survived since then in office.

    October 25th, 2010 at 9:36 am

  21. ed says:

    Joining the fray with comity, Mikhail Gorbachev warns NATO that victory is impossible in Afghanistan.

    October 31st, 2010 at 6:47 pm

  22. ed says:

    People in Yemen suspect that Al Qaeda is a ghost and a scam being used to foist otherwise intolerable policies upon them.

    Now THAT’s what I’m talking about …

    November 3rd, 2010 at 10:23 pm

  23. ed says:

    Indeed, Gates and a good deal of the Pentagon leadership will all be leaving in 2011.

    One wonders what this will to do the late summer 2011 withdrawal or draw down or deaccleration or whatever in Pakghanistan that the White House still seems to have have on its calendar.

    Are they leaving because they don’t want to manage the withdrawal? Perhaps thinking it’s a no-win game?

    November 7th, 2010 at 8:14 pm

  24. ed says:

    Times says the White House is “tweaking” the August 2011 withdrawal-or-whatever to … sometime in 2014 at the earliest.

    Gates (linked prior) was perhaps frank and simple when he told Karzai over the summer that the US will never leave Afghanistan.

    Of its own volition. With a smile on its face.

    November 10th, 2010 at 10:39 pm

  25. ed says:

    Complex car bomb attack on police HQ in central Karachi. Pretty unbelievable.

    November 11th, 2010 at 4:59 pm

  26. ed says:

    Bob Herbert in the Times talking about the must-see documentary about the US soldiers in Afghanistan, RESTREPO:

    November 13th, 2010 at 9:07 am

  27. ed says:

    In what seems actual news, perhaps a turning point, Karzai is telling the americans to go home or, at least, to stop killing people for no good reason.

    I’ve marvelled for well over a year that he’s still alive and in office.

    November 15th, 2010 at 11:46 pm

  28. ed says:

    This takes the cake.

    The so-called peace talks — which Petraeus himself was publicizing for weeks — and which speculated above were a kind of nonsense, perhaps for the US elections — were COMPLETE nonsense — attended by a Flim Flam Man posing as a top Taliban commander and walking away from each conference with a bag of Pentagon cash.

    “The Taliban are cleverer than the Americans and our own intelligence service,” a senior Afghan official told The Times. “They are playing games.”


    November 22nd, 2010 at 10:51 pm

  29. ed says:

    Mo Dowd chimes in on the Flim Flam Man and the utter joke of US policy over there.

    November 24th, 2010 at 10:47 am

  30. ed says:

    Times fellow says Afghanistan is already much worse than Vietnam

    November 24th, 2010 at 8:54 pm

  31. ed says:

    Salmaan Taseer, leader of western-friendly liberals in Pakistan, of Lahore, is assassinated by his bodyguard, who receives a hero’s welcome in Islamabad.

    Reminiscent of the murder of Itzak Rabin.

    January 5th, 2011 at 6:45 pm

  32. ed says:

    Cheney says Obama is doing a heckuva job

    January 18th, 2011 at 12:33 am

  33. ed says:

    Daniel Pearl’s assassins said to be still at large in Pakistan:

    January 20th, 2011 at 1:39 pm

  34. ed says:

    More on our mass murderous video-gaming soldiers overseas

    April 8th, 2011 at 1:16 pm

  35. ed says:

    ISI chief tells Panetta at Langley that CIA has to curtail and better communicate in Pakistan

    April 11th, 2011 at 8:40 pm

  36. ed says:

    The money we spend on war

    April 13th, 2011 at 11:46 am

  37. ed says:

    The money we spend on war

    April 13th, 2011 at 11:46 am

  38. ed says:

    cover story in Harper’s May issue:

    OWNED BY THE ARMY — Has the President Lost Control of his Generals

    He was in the war party’s pocket coming out of the Long Campaign vs Hillary. The only “debate” with McCain subseq thru election day was re how much one should talk in public about private undeclared wars (our war in/on Pakistan then in point) — with McCain the one chiding Obama for pounding the table so loudly in public.

    This happened over and over across the summer up to election day. Was remarked upon at the time. It was clear then (as noted then) that Obama had been Briefed and Pocketed.

    The other clear angle on Obama’s mind re the military is his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, whose signal achievement across the decade preceding his ascension to DC was to turn five Chicago public schools into “military academies.”

    And, of course, Mrs Obama regularly praises the military as a great career. (For underclass kids)

    The Harper’s piece is rather gentle, despite the headline.

    April 22nd, 2011 at 10:41 am

  39. ed says:

    In recent two weeks the head of ISI came to Washington, sat with Panetta CIA and told him the drone attacks have to stop (or ratchet down) and ISI needs complete briefing on US activity in Pakistan.

    In subseq days washington types tried to downplay. It’s the consistent struggle ongoing since shortly after 9/11 when the americans grabbed poor little general musharef by the lapels and administered the kiss of death: “You are our ally.”

    April 22nd, 2011 at 10:44 am

  40. ed says:

    another afghan soldier turns coat on americans and kills 9

    April 27th, 2011 at 8:38 am

  41. ed says:

    Malalai Joya — afghan activist, author, long held out of US by state department — was recently granted entry. spoke here at harvard with chomsky

    chomsky’s focus on the radicalization of pakistan by the us ten-year war next door is important too.

    May 1st, 2011 at 6:23 pm

  42. ed says:

    paki army chief tells yanks to fuck off and go home after the bin laden raid

    May 5th, 2011 at 9:58 pm

  43. ed says:

    paki army chief tells yanks to fuck off and go home after the bin laden raid

    May 5th, 2011 at 9:58 pm

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  45. ed says:

    Fast forward to Dec 2013. From ex-CIA analyst Phil Giraldi:

    December 13th, 2013 at 1:25 pm

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