Monday, March 30, 2009


You can catch me with Jerome McDonald on Worldview discussing the Obama announcement on "Af-Pak" aka "Western Pakistan". Read more on this article...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

On Khamenei’s Response to Obama

Farideh Farhi

Juan Cole already has a run down of some of the things Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei said in response to President Obama’s message on the occasion of Iranian New Year and the press coverage of it. I think Juan’s point about the speech not being a rebuff is on the money, but I do take issue with his characterization of the speech being more like a “grumpy old man response to Obama's call for engagement.”

I say this because I think the translations of the bits and pieces of the speech in the news (even the Persian language Farsnews upon which Juan relies) do not do justice to this carefully crafted response intended to set the parameters of US-Iran talks if they are to happen.

For those who can understand Persian, I recommend that you check Khamenei’s website. The Persian language section of the website - the site has translations in 12 other languages – has both the video of his speech as well as the whole text. The English section also has an abbreviated English translation which is decent but still does not relay the feel you get by watching the whole speech.

The speech was quite long, first dealing with domestic affairs and focusing mostly on the need to curb the consumption of resources. But it gets interesting around minute 40 when he explains why his public support for President Ahmadinejad should not be construed as support for him as a candidate in the next presidential election. This is of course a big issue for Iran’s domestic politics and the fact that the leader himself had to address it was significant since Ahmadinejad supporters are working very hard to give the impression that he is his candidate

The move to the subject of US-Iran talks is abrupt and Khamenei makes clear that this is the only external issue with which he will deal, spending more than 20 minutes on it. It is a powerful speech, calmly delivered, and mostly devoid of usual jargon. He does talk about US policies that have harmed Iran and continue to harm it, including sanctions, freezing of assets, support for opposition and secessionist groups, and Baluchi insurgents - communications of whom with US operatives he says the Iranian government has intercepted.

But he mentions these as reasons why mere conciliatory speeches cannot be considered real change in American policy. More significantly, he mentions them in order to explain why the continuation of these hostile policies has to make Iran wonder whether President Obama’s gestures are of any value: “They say they have extended their hands towards Iran. If the extended hand has a velvet glove but under it is an iron cast hand, then this does not have a good meaning.”

This leads to the point: “They say come and talk, come and establish relations, they change slogans. Well, where is this change? Clarify this for us; what has changed? Have you unfrozen the assets of the Iranian people; have you lifted the oppressive sanctions…? We do not have any experience with the new American government and president; we will look and judge. You change, and we will also change our behavior too.”

He also makes a clever play on the usual way the American policy community talks about Iran, turning it against US and saying “I don’t know who really makes policy in the US – the president, Congress or behind the scene players.” But no matter who makes decisions in the US, Iran makes decision "rationally and not based on emotions." The bottom line is: “Our nation dislikes it when you again proclaim ‘talks with pressure’; we talk to Iran while we pressure them as well – threat and inducement. You cannot talk to our nation this way."

Juan Cole interpret complains about US foreign policy as “Iran’s initial bargaining position which include everything but the kitchen sink.” I don’t.

Khamenei’s speech actually shows how attuned he is to debates in Washington. He makes no calls for U.S. apology for past actions. His focus is today. No doubt he wants sanctions to be lifted, assets unfrozen, and attempts to undermine the Iranian government ended at some point as a result of talks with the U.S.

But his concern now is the argument forwarded by powerful circles in Washington that negotiations with Iran should be combined with increased pressure to make sure that Iran will give in at the end. It is this type of what he calls “condescending language, arrogant approach, and patronizing moves” that he rejects.

Clearly from his view, engagement in talks must be accompanied with some concrete steps that show Iran that the United States is interested in a process and give and take and not a process based on “either deception or intimidation.” Deception because the objective remains the same while the softer language is a mere tactical change. Intimidation because talks are combined with further squeeze of Iran.

He leaves no doubt that further squeezing of Iran leading up to talks and during the talks will be seen as a sign that President Obama’s rhetoric of change is a farce. As such the speech should really be seen as a carefully calibrated attempt to shape the debate in Washington on how to go about talking to Iran.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009


by Philip J Cunningham

The June 4, 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, the exact statistics about which remain ambiguous, was unambiguously a tragedy for China, all the more painful because it was self-inflicted. From crushed bystander to lynched soldiers, from fearless young firebrands in the streets to frightened old men in the watchtower, the ill-conceived crackdown wounded the country as a whole.

Yet when people ask how many people died at Tiananmen, or want to learn more about the victims, it almost goes without saying that the question is about the people the Western media regards as having been “on our side.” PLA soldiers don’t really figure into the equation, they’re the anonymous “bad guys,” at best pawns in the background.

But last week, the silence from the other side was dramatically broken. Zhang Shijun, a former PLA soldier who was involved in the bloody June 4, 1989 crackdown at Tiananmen Square has courageously stepped forward to demand a government inquiry into a pivotal event that remains all but taboo in China even 20 years on.

Mr. Zhang’s bold open letter to China President Hu Jintao is likely to make life difficult for him –he was reportedly arrested shortly after talking to reporters-- but if it doesn’t, it may help start a dialogue that can rectify that imbalance and round out our understanding.

It's hard to think of a grouping with more right to righteous anger than the Tiananmen Mothers, and their dedication to their lost sons and daughters is powerful and inspiring. But there are other grieving parents; families broken by June 4, 1989 that rarely get mention when the anniversary of the epic battle for “democracy” gets trumped up and trumpeted in the West.

Scores of PLA soldiers died too, mostly young men similar in age to the protesters they were ordered to quell. The hapless provincial soldiers, even if made of "lesser steel" in socioeconomic terms, even if denied the opportunity of university education and the privilege of residence in the capital, were kids with parents and grandparents too.

While the desire to take sides is understandable, and the need for closure –even outright denial-- is emotionally compelling, the complex truth of the tragedy has been too long obscured by speculative reporting and heated partisanship on the “democracy” side, countered by government secretiveness and a chilling silence on the other.

In political terms we might be tempted to dismiss Zhang Shijun and other soldiers as having been tools of an authoritarian state, at least partly culpable, to the extent that they were reckless and cruel in the way they carried out orders, and given the long view, we might even be tempted to write them off as being on the wrong side of history. But Zhang’s bid to be part of the conversation changes all that. Were the soldiers not fellow citizens, brought into the world with hopes and dreams of their own?

Given the mutually exclusive sympathies characteristic of violent events, acknowledging the view, let alone the hurt of the “other side,” especially if it is the “wrong side,” is in itself strangely controversial.

This was evident in sharply contrasting reports on the violence in Tibet last year. Beijing government claims, while fairly well documented, focused on Han victims, while Tibetan exiles made difficult to verify claims about violence against ethnic Tibetans, while downplaying Han casualties of the street riots.

The Orwellian state of affairs at present is that Tibet is now in lockdown and the information flow curtailed. Who’s to say what is or isn’t happening?

In the case of Beijing in 1989, civilian deaths, documented in the hundreds before information controls went into effect, were horrendous, all the more so because the introduction of war weapons into the mix was so incendiary, so unnecessary.

Bad policy had deadly consequences, some of it resulting in the “horrific scenes,” mostly involving unarmed civilians, that ex-soldier Zhang alludes to. But scores of soldiers were also killed on June 4, ripped to pieces, burned and bodily defiled, when a badly cornered crowd erupted in uncontrollable anger, as Tiananmen Square was retaken by force.

The image of a man standing in front of a tank eventually became a worldwide icon of defiance, but actions far more defiant, far more insane and far more brave and craven happened the day and night before that famous photo which was snapped. Leading up to that photographic moment of equipoise, tanks were trapped and thousands of vehicles torched and soldiers beaten to death by an unarmed but inconsolable mob.

The bells of Tiananmen will toll again this year to mark the twentieth anniversary of the tragedy. In China proper, the metaphoric peals will most likely be greeted by the usual deafening silence, a product of state-enforced prohibitions, inadequate information flow and popular indifference. What few commemorations do take place, in liberal Hong Kong and at gatherings overseas, are likely to be partisan in character, excluding the plight of the fallen soldiers.

Today, with dizzying death tolls being played up or played down or spun around in plain sight due to the machinations of propaganda and partisanship, we should remember that the tolling bell that John Donne famously made allusion to; we suffer not just from the loss of the people we identify as being on our side, but from the loss of others, too.

June 4, 1989 produced no winners, but reconciliation is possible with an open airing of the truth. There are political risks to be sure, especially at a time of economic downturn and rising unrest, but the sooner China has the conversation it needs to be at peace with itself, the better for everyone.

The author, who worked for BBC in Beijing during May and June 1989 is a visiting fellow at Cornell University and author of a memoir entitled Tiananmen Moon, to be published this May by Rowman & Littlefield.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

And Happy Nowruz to You Too Mr. Obama!

Farideh Farhi

I must say that I am stunned by the tone and content of President Obama's message to Iran on the occasion of Iranian New Year or Nowruz. I am stunned because the message was great and on matters related to Iran I am not used to hearing what I like from Washington. So here are some quick thoughts.

Asides from being his gracious self, President Obama did several things that are significant. First and foremost was the fact that, unlike his predecessor, he did not attempt to drive a wedge between the people and government of Iran. He spoke explicitly to both the “people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” acknowledging their common history and culture. No more we love the people of Iran but hate their government taunt repeatedly brandished by the Bush Administration.

Second, he did not try to drive a wedge between the leaders of Iran. He addressed them all and in one brilliant move put to rest all the useless chatter about who the Obama administration should talk to. His focus was not on which Iranians the US wishes to talk to ("moderates" or "pragmatists") or should talk to (the ones who “really” wield power) but the fact that the two countries should talk on matters of mutual interest as well as about their differences.

Third, stating his commitment to meaningful diplomacy and avoiding demonizing rhetoric and peremptory demands, he simply stated the basic truth that the two long-time foes now face a chance for “engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect” and addresses concerns of both. The process, he said in no uncertain terms, “will not be advanced by threats.”

This is the closest anyone in the US has come to ruling out the military option regarding Iran. Obama did not ignore “serious differences that have gown over time,” but did not validate "those who insist that we be defined by our differences." His commitment was clearly to “diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues” as well as “constructive ties” between the two countries.

Some Iranians, no doubt, will find fault in the following paragraph, deeming it a bit patronizing if not insulting:

The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.

But the general tenor of the speech was so different from what the Iranians are used to hearing that my bet at this point is that this part will be mostly ignored. The Iranians have been calling for a serious conversation and Mr. Obama has now promised them one. Let’s see if it happens.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Long March in Pakistan

On March 12, 1930 Gandhi marched to Dandhi - stopping in forty plus villages - and speaking about swaraj and breaking the salt laws to show their inhumanity. Satyagraha is definitely at the heart of the nonviolent demand for the restoration of the Supreme Court deposed on Nov. 3, 2007 by Pervez Musharraf and specifically Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on March 9, 2007.

Much has happened since then. Benazir Bhutto's return in October 2007 and her assassination in December 2007. The elections in February 2008 brought to power a new coalition of Pakistan People's Party to power with the swashbuckling widow Zardari taking over as President. A basic campaign promise was to solve the judicial crisis and reinstate the Supreme Court of '07.

None of the promises have been kept. Instead, the PPP regime has used the Dogar Supreme Court (cronies put in place by Musharraf) to throw out the opponent political party PML-N out of power in Punjab and restrict Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif from electoral politics.

The Long March of March 12, 2009, leading up to a sit-in at the capital on March 16th, is the only way that the people of Pakistan can produce pressure on the civilian and military regime to pay attention to justice, to accountability and to democracy.

What shouldn't escape anyone's attention is that _THIS_ is what democratic, nonviolent, resistance looks like. This is fine. This is normal. This is what we should expect in a society where the government and the people are out of step. This is not a coup, nor the '79 revolution.

The Zardari regime has reacted as all cornered governments do: mass arrests, police violence on crowds, implementation of laws against critical speech etc.

The best place to follow developments is on Twitter. You should also follow the liveblog on Teeth Maestro. You should also look over this excellent background piece by Madiha Tahir at APP. You should read Sahar Shafqat's op-ed.

[x-posted on CM] Read more on this article...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Iran’s Majles Strikes a Blow to Ahmadinejad’s Economic Plans

Farideh Farhi

While most of the recent Iran news has focused on the prospect of an Iran-US rapprochement, the country's domestic scene has been consumed with a major fight over economic policy. This week the fight came to a head as the whole Majles began deliberating on the country’s budget for the next fiscal year as well Ahmadinejad’s attempt to reform the country’s bloated subsidy system.

The best evidence for how contentious economic policy has become is the fact that only about 10 days left before the Iranian New Year – after which the whole country literally comes into a stand still for a couple of weeks – the details of the budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning on March 21 are yet to be approved.

The set up for a confrontation began when Ahmadinejad introduced his budget bill to Majles rather late and he did so along with his very ambitious targeted subsidies bill which calls for the suspension of all energy subsidies, their replacement with direct cash subsidies to the lowest 7 income brackets, and sharp prices increases particularly for gasoline and diesel fuel.

Majles deputies, particularly those with a long history of expertise on economic issues, not only found the budget numbers unrealistic, at times even fabricated, but also worried about the connection between the proposed budget and presumed savings generated from ending subsidies and the inflationary impact of the government’s proposed hikes in energy prices.

Economists have been even more critical of government numbers. Mohammad Sattarifar, the former head of the Planning and Budget Organization, went as far as to say that the budget was not even worth analyzing because the administration will be forced to come back to Majles with many amendments and changes. He pointed out that the projected revenues from increasing energy prices does not even take into account the amount of energy consumption by the largest consumer of energy in Iran which is the government itself!

The proposed budget assumes revenues of about $34bn from price hike and subsidy cuts and a distribution of about ¼ of that amount as cash deposited directly to people’s bank accounts immediately after the June election. This time frame was promised to allay the fear that cash subsidies were intended to buy votes.

The large combined Majles committee created to examine the two bills considered government assessment of revenues as exaggerated but, after Ahmadinejad threatened to pull out his targeted subsidies bill in its entirety, agreed to lower the amount of expected revenues while still allocating the government the amount it said it needed to implement the cash subsidies program.

However, by the time the budget bill came to the floor of the whole Majles, prominent economists as well as the Majles Research Center had already voiced concern about the inflationary shock the drastic increase in energy prices would entail. The general outline of the budget was approved in a short session despite significant opposition but today the targeted subsidies component of the budget bill was rejected in its entirety in a 132-102 vote.

It must be considered truly ironic that a president elected on a social justice platform is now being accused by a coalition of prominent conservatives and reformists as the promoter of “shock therapy” that will harm the poor and middle class in significant ways (note the picture on top of this post reproduced from Alef website which is run by Ahmad Tavakoli, a prominent conservative deputy and head of Majles Research Center. It uses a hand to show the need to stop “shock therapy” written in Persian).

Left hanging is the fate of the budget which still needs to be approved in a more detailed fashion. As mentioned, Ahmadinejad's budget numbers are very much linked to subsidy cuts. His administration also took a “take it as is” attitude and refused to address Majles’ concerns about the inflationary impact of sudden price hikes. Now it is not clear how Majles' rejection will affect the budget and whether, as threatened, Ahmadinejad will abandon any attempt to make energy prices more realistic or begin working with Majles to reach a compromise on gradual price increases.

Timing is also a factor because the Guardian Council also needs to approve the budget by the end of the year. Its task is to make sure that - as demanded by the Constitution - all sources of spending are clearly specified. The Council’s spokesperson, Abbas-ali Kadkhodai, has already voiced his concern about the timing, stating that if the budget is not approved by the end of the year, by law the government cannot have any expenses on the first day of the upcoming year unless some sort of temporary appropriation is agreed upon on a monthly basis for necessary current expenses.

It is worth noting that the budget process in Iran is usually messy, quite raucous, and a source of open conflict between Iran’s legislative and executive branches. Even Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, without a doubt post-revolutionary Iran’s most powerful president, was often stunted in his budget plans by Majles. But the lateness and chaos that has characterized this year’s budget process – occurring in the midst of drastic drop in oil prices and global economic crisis - has taken the conflict to another level.

It has also highlighted the difficulty even conservatives have in accepting some of Ahmadinejad’s ideas and his rather aggressive style in dealing with people who worry about the impact of his policies.

Majles’ decisive rejection is a major setback for Ahmadinejad. The manner in which Ahmadinejad manages to work himself back into Majles’ good graces will be important in convincing key conservative players to back his candidacy for presidency. It is hard to believe that the events of this week have made conservative unity behind his candidacy more likely.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Bhasin: Pakistan- the Matryoshka Doll of terrorism

Madhavi Bhasi writes

Matryoshka Doll commonly referred to as Russian nested doll is a set of dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other. Matryoshka is derived from the Latin root ‘mater’ meaning mother. As a breeding ground for terrorists and exhibiting different forms of terrorism, Pakistan can undoubtedly be likened to a matryoshka doll of terrorism.

Several national, regional and global developments presented Pakistan with grave challenges as a nation-state. The country was thrown into a state of political pandemonium with martial law, military coups, political assassinations and absence of democratic elections in the first decade. Religious scholars like Sayyid Suleman Nadvi and Prof. Hamidullah were invited to advise the Government on Constitution making, resulting in emergence of the Objectives Resolution 1949. The Resolution provided that future Constitutions of Pakistan would be modeled on the ideology and democratic faith of Islam. Hassan Abbas and Jessica (FRW) Stern in their book Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism, detail how the influence of Pakistan’s clergy shaped the country’s politics. Pakistan’s ‘religious identity’ came to dominate her foreign policy through the unresolved issue of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). India’s charge of “sponsored terrorism” in J&K was refuted by Pakistan as diplomatic, political and moral support to the movement for Kashmiri freedom. Robert G. Wirsing in Kashmir in the Shadow of War, highlights how Pakistan’s fixation on Kashmir was viewed by many as a pan-Islamic geostrategic enterprise.

Extremism in terms of inspiration and manifestation graduated to a new level in Pakistan during the 1980s. Influx of jihadi ideology during the Soviet-Afghanistan war had tremendous fallout on Pakistan. External developments coincided with General Zia ul-Haq’s policies of embedding the Islamic ideology in Pakistan’s polity and society. The defeat of the Soviet forces in Afghanistan made a large mass of the jihadist element available for action in Kashmir. India has been drawing international attention to Pakistan’s terrorist activities in J&K since the late 1980s.

Pakistan’s association with terrorism was re-defined after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. In the global war against terrorism Pakistan emerged as frontline state and pledged to sever ties with the Taliban, while supporting the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. It was expected that as an ally in the global counter-terrorism effort, Pakistan would convincingly clamp down on terrorists operating from its territory. Pakistan sought to demonstrate its willingness in combating terrorism through a variety military offensives ranging from the Lal Masjid action to Operation ‘Zalzala’. But involvement in the global war against terrorism was a phase of ecdysis and terrorism continued to flourish in Pakistan.

In the past few months the nested doll of terrorism has sprung another surprise for the global community. Since the process of revelation is still underway, detailed features of the new form of terrorism are yet to be discerned. Nevertheless, the outlines are perceptible. The extremist elements harboring anti-Pakistan sentiments will be segregated from those combating American forces in Afghanistan and will be treated differently. In short, Pakistan reverts to the policy of co-existing with terrorist forces as long as the latter renounces the use of force against the Pakistani establishment. Indications of such a trend and its rationalizations are reflected in the recent policy choices by the Pakistani Government.

President Zardari’s Government has intensified attempts at making peace deals with militant outfits in the country. In April 2008, the Government secured the release of Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin after finalizing a peace agreement with Baitullah Mehsud, leader of Tehrik-i-Taliban. The deal also included provision for withdrawal of Pakistani Army from areas of South Waziristan in return of commitment by the militants that government and security forces will not be targeted. While agreeing to make peace with Pakistan, Mehsud emphasized that jihad against U.S. forces in Afghanistan would continue unabated. This peace deal was preceded by an agreement with TNSM (Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi ) leading to the release of Sufi Mohammad, arrested in 2001 for sending volunteers to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The TNSM was allowed to peacefully campaign for the implementation of the Sharia on the condition that government establishment will not be attacked.

As a logical progression to the 2008 agreement with TNSM, the government of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) signed the Swat Peace Deal on February 16, 2009. The Swat Accord allows TNSM to implement the Sharia in the valley while ensuring that Maulana Qazi Fazlullah’s faction would renounce the use of force against the Pakistani Government. After the Swat Deal, Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security declared that this model would be replicated in other tribal areas if successful. A week later on February 23, the Taliban in Bajaur declared a unilateral ceasefire and the Government has responded by halting its operation for four days. It’s yet to be seen if this cessation of hostilities leads to another peace deal. Faqir Mohammad, a Taliban leader, explained that the ceasefire was ordered because it was in the ‘interest of Pakistan and the region.’ Meanwhile, three factions of the Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban, Hfiz Gul Bahadur Group and Mullah Nazir Group, declared the formation an alliance in Waziristan tribal area on February 21. The alliance could be an attempt to enhance the bargaining power of the Taliban in the future peace offers by the Pakistani government. Such developments point the emergence of a new form of terrorism in Pakistan; terrorism which is constrained in its scope and does not victimize its guardian.

This new form of terrorism has emerged from the intersection of two distinct developments. The first development is inspired by the unnoticed yet compelling suggestions on how the U.S. should deal with the extremist elements in Afghanistan. In October 2008, U.S. Army General David Petraeus stated that negotiations could be held with some sections of the Taliban as a strategy to check growing violence in Afghanistan. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates echoed the same approach when he suggested that Washington could reconcile with sections of the Taliban if the Karzai government was willing. Secretary Gates however, categorically ruled out any possibility of negotiations with Al Qaeda. Developments on the ground appeared to follow the suggestions of General Petraeus and Secretary Gates. In late 2008 Afghan officials, including President Karzai’s brother, held talks with the Taliban in a dialogue brokered by Saudi Arabia. Though the negotiations did not yield any positive outcome it set the stage for future dialogue. Abdul Salaam, a former Taliban fighter has been appointed as the District Chief of Musa Qala in January this year. His appointment comes as a reward for defecting from Taliban and assisting the British forces to wrestle Musa Qala from Taliban control. Leaders of the Taliban are thus being rewarding for making peace with NATO forces in Afghanistan. This suggests that the U.S. favors a policy of negotiating with certain elements of Taliban in lieu of peace and stability. The Government of Pakistan is simply implementing a customized version of the U.S. strategy at a faster pace.

The second development contributing to the emergence of a new form of terrorism is the gradual distancing of the Taliban from the al Qaeda. Though rarely realized the Al Qaeda and Taliban are historically and ideologically distinct. The Al Qaeda is inspired by the more extremist Wahabi School of Islam and does not recognize national boundaries. The mission of the Al Qaeda is to establish the rule of pure Islam across the globe. The Taliban are ideologically linked to the Sufi and Deoband Schools of Islam and largely comprise of local fighters from tribal Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban also favor spreading the message of pure Islam but their operational sphere is limited to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nationalism is a strong sentiment among the Taliban which distinguishes them from the Al Qaeda.

This difference in ideology has become prominent in the past year. In February 2008 there was a statement by Taliban leader Mullah Omar that his movement wanted to maintain positive and legitimate relations with Afghanistan and its neighbors. Mullah Omar’s contention is the stationing of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and not the existence of Afghanistan under non-Taliban rule. In the words of Mullah Salam Zaief, Taliban’s Former Ambassador to Pakistan, “The conflict in Afghanistan doesn’t mean [the Taliban] has to confront the world…Taliban doesn’t want to rule the world.” As early as 2005 Ayman al-Zawahiri had pointed out that the Taliban members had retreated to their tribes and villages after the U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan and showed little attachment to the global Islamist struggle. In making peace deals with the Pakistani Government, the Taliban are attempting to regain local orientation and avoid entanglement in a never-ending global jihad.

The Government of Pakistan and the Taliban have thus come under the influence of two distinct developments which has got them to the negotiating table. Both sides are working out means of mutual accommodation. This however, complicates the task for the U.S. Anti-U.S. attacks in Afghanistan will continue to inspire the Taliban even if they stop subscribing to the ideology of global jihad. This new form of terrorism emerging out of Pakistan will not threaten the U.S. homeland but will continue to challenge the American forces in Afghanistan. Since peace and stability in Afghanistan is a critical objective of the global war on terrorism, Pakistan’s peace with Taliban implies mere alteration rather than elimination of the terrorist threat challenging the U.S. The latest form of the matryoshka doll is no less menacing.

Madhavi Bhasin
Senior Research Fellow at Jadavpur University

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