Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The Afghan Presidential elections were rigged in many ways, however the vote recount is even bigger farce. It seems that EU & US representatives conducting this exercise had a pre-determined goal to bring Hamid Karzai's vote below 50% in order to call a run off election.

The two Afghan individuals involved with recount effort resigned in disgust a few days ago, when they discovered the real mandate of EU representatives. It is amazing how Mr. Karzai's vote has been brought down to 49.6% (just below 50%) to order a recount. First the elections were a farce and now the recount is an even bigger farce.

If the intention is to establish democracy and rule of law in Afghanistan, then this is a total violation of all democratic norms. The Afghan populace has no interest whatsoever in these goings on as they don't see their life changing either under Karzai or Abdullah. After all these two gentlemen have been center stage for last eight years and are responsible for the failure of Afghan civil and military administration. Efforts are now afoot by EU & US to get Karzai to form a coalition with Abdullah, a sure recipe for disaster.

In the last elections, less than 30% Afghan electorate voted and when fraudulent votes are counted out, the count is probably less than 25%. In a run off election less than 20% are likely to vote. If President Obama and Hillary Clinton are betting on this democratic move, then it is doomed to failure.

What is needed is to rescind the fraudulent elections, disqualify Karzai and Abdullah for they represent drug and crime syndicates, form a Government of national unity of all Afghan ethnic groups for a period of one year and then have fresh elections. That would allow for healing to take place in fractious Afghan society and also for new leadership to emerge. The people of Afghanistan need to be inclusive in this process, they are then likely be more involved in the democratic process.

A foreign imposed formula is only likely to bring more chaos, more ethnic rivalry and destabilization of the region resulting in foreign troops having to stay longer than they need to. Do the US public have the stomach for US forces to stay there another five years and can the US Military sustain continued war, I think not.

Monday, September 21, 2009


The Generals are saying that without more troops war effort in Afghanistan will be lost. What they cannot visualize is that with more troops, failure will come sooner.. Many military and independent observers admit that 80% of Afghanistan is already lost to Taliban and this, after eight years of military effort!

Those of us old enough to remember early days of Vietnam war, remember well that troop levels were around 50,000 at first, then 100,000, then 250,000 and still the Generals wanted more, saying that we can only defeat the enemy if we have more troops. President Johnson listened to them and increased troop levels to over 400,000. United Sates still lost the war and to this day, hasty retreat of U.S. troops from Vietnam haunts many a mind.

Afghanistan is no different, same scenario will be played out again if troops are increased, only more American young men and women will die, more Afghans will be bombed and the resultant hatred against the U.S. will last for another 20 to 30 years. It is time to learn a lesson from history. "Nations who do not learn from past mistakes are bound to repeat them".

It is no fault of the Generals that they ask for more troops. This is what they know - have strength to fight the enemy. Generals are no politicians and it is not in their purview to think politically, that is the job of the politicians and the President.

It is still not too late to achieve a reconciliation in Afghanistan. Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders have hinted more than once that they are willing to talk. U.S. has the means and the motive to accomplish a reconciliation. What is needed is an immediate ceasefire and a conference of all Afghan players, Northern Alliance, Hazaras, Pashtuns, Taliban and all others. U.S. and NATO should tell them that if you want foreign troops to leave, they have to reconcile and get along with each other.

Annul the Presidential elections and hold fresh elections after a peace conference so all parties can freely participate and if the people of Afghanistan want an Islamic Government, let them have one, only do not isolate them like before, so they go to bed with terrorists. Bring the new Afghan Government into the fold of international community and let them realize their responsibilities to the international community.

Afghanistan and its people have suffered a great deal in the super power rivalry. It is time this country was at peace and started rebuilding its infrastructure, an education system and created job opportunities for its young so they don't follow religious extremists. A Marshall style reconstruction plan for Afghanistan and Western part of Pakistan could change the political landscape of that part of the world and yet, it would cost a great deal less than extending the war.

President Obama, do not send more troops to Afghanistan. Start a reconciliation process in that country and bring all American troops home from Afghanistan within a year.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Vote rigging, ballot box stuffing, duplicate ballots, validity and final outcome of elections in doubt, no we are not talking about Iranian elections but Afghan elections supervised by U.S. and NATO. In one District alone, not a single vote was caste and yet all 38,000 votes showed up in one candidate's column. Where is the outrage? Why are the U.S. leaders not raving and ranting about it and why is Mr. Fareed Zakaria not blowing hot and cold on CNN's GPS Program?

Before the elections, NATO's representative in charge of overseeing the elections foolishly claimed an expected 80% voter turnout. The actual number seems well below 30%. Even in India, a country with perpetual 62 year democracy and frequent election history, voter turnout has not yet reached 80%, it is usually around 60%.

Obviously NATO does not understand Afghanistan where half the population i.e. women are not allowed by their husbands/fathers to go out of their houses let alone participate in elections. This shows a complete lack of understanding of Afghan culture and realities on the ground. It begs the question, if after eight years of presence on the ground, U.S. and NATO still do not understand Afghanistan, then what are they doing there?

The West is trying to succeed in Afghanistan by pinning its hopes on two men with tainted background. Mr. Hamid Karzai's is alleged to have enriched himself through corruption and by giving free reign to his brother, reported to be the biggest drug czar in Afghanistan. Mr. Abdullah Abdullah represents the Northern Alliance, a group with criminal history. When Kabul fell during the civil war under Alliance's control for a couple of months, they looted every house, murdered many able bodied men and raped as many women as they could. Also, a component of the Alliance headed by Rashid Dostum of Mazar-e-Sharif, who after the U.S. invasion is alleged to have killed over 1,000 people by locking them in cargo containers for months on end without food or water. Mr. Abdullah Abdullah may not himself be involved in any killings, but he is supported by these criminal elements. Hoping that people like Karzai and Abdullah can bring renaissance to Afghanistan is like handing over power to the I.R.A. in Northern Ireland and the Mafia in the U.S.

Afghanistan needs reconciliation and new leadership. It needs new faces and until new leadership is developed, civility and peace is not likely return to that country. The West's efforts of nation building are doomed to failure as long as it continues to provide oxygen to leaders with criminal background in Afghanistan.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


US is fighting an un-winnable war in Afghanistan. They are hoping to achieve results by use of military means that neither the British Raj could in a hundred years nor the Soviets with a much larger manpower and equipment. US Military Commanders know that they are losing this war, only no one has the courage to stand up and tell it to the Administration. There are no General Shinsekis any more.

The Afghan elections due to be held in August will be meaningless under these conditions and should be postponed for at least another six months. An interim Administration comprised of impartial and moderate elements (not Zalmay Khalilzad as he will be seen as a US plant) should replace the corrupt Government of Hamid Karzai. To achieve fair and impartial elections, interim leaders must pledge not to be candidates in the elections.

It is time to bring this war to an end and settle Afghanistan politically and not militarily. Continuation of this war is destroying the entire region as Taliban cross over into Pakistan and create problems for their security forces. After initial contacts are established with Taliban there should be a cease fire under which all military activity comes to a halt. Then a conference of all Afghan players (including Taliban) should be called to discuss participation in next elections. Without stopping the war a political settlement is unlikely, so fighting will continue. After the disastrous Iraq war, US public has little capacity to stomach this war and if things continue on the present course, US will probably have to up and leave in a couple of years, leaving behind a bigger mess.

It is imperative that military activities come to an end and a political solution starts to take hold as soon as possible. It is a fallacy that Taliban can be defeated and then development can begin in Afghanistan. Taliban are not likely to be defeated so real development cannot begin. How can foreign troops hope to defeat the locals who are supported by some of the same war lords who claim to side with NATO and at the same time finance Taliban from their profitable poppy crops. The decision to allow Afghans to grow poppy (completely eradicated during Taliban rule as un Islamic) has been one of the biggest mistakes of Afghan war. More than likely Mr. Karzai and his henchmen were behind this decision, no wonder his brother is now allegedly the largest drug dealer in Afghanistan.

Nearly 50% of Afghan population is Pashtun and yet for the last five years they have not had proper representation in the Afghan Government. After the US invasion, most dominant players running the Government were from the Northern Alliance, a minority non-Pashtun group defeated by Taliban earlier. They forced their will over Hamid Karzai and virtually controlled the Government. Situation has changed somewhat since then, but still Pashtun majority does not have a fair representation.

To start an all party dialogue, it is important to bring Taliban to the table, but this will not happen under a Karzai Government. A neutral interim administration comprised of elders is much more likely to make it happen. First, the US has to realize that Taliban are inclusive and not exclusive to Afghan society, so they need to be brought to the conference table. Some Afghan elders have already shown willingness to help start this process and this should be taken advantage of.

Only a fair and impartial election with all parties participating (including Taliban) can bring a representative Government to Afghanistan. Ever since Soviet invasion in 1979 Afghanistan has been devastated by war and the country needs a major economic plan. Pakistan has also paid a heavy price for supporting and training Mujaheddin against Soviet forces and by the influx of three million Afghan refugees, one million of which still reside there. Also, influx of Afghan weapons into Pakistan since 1979 has played havoc in their society, virtually destroying law and order.

Instead of spending one hundred billion dollars on a losing war, US and NATO should create a 'Marshall, style plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Probably a much lower figure than the cost of war (say) $25 billion will bring massive development to both countries, creating new schools, building new roads and markets, airports etc.

Peaceful Afghanistan and Pakistan can start building oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to the Arabian sea away past the Straits of Hormuz to ensure safe and unlimited supply of oil and gas to US, Europe, and the Far East in addition to meeting energy needs of these two countries.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


The initial movement to dispute the results of Iran's Presidential elections has now morphed into a struggle for freedom and a rebellion against theocracy's 30 year stranglehold.

The unelected Guardian Council headed by the Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was imposed upon Iran following the revolution of late Ayatollah Khomeini. This body of clerics and jurists has bestowed upon itself the ultimate power to veto any laws passed by the elected Majlis - the Iranian parliament. The Council also has the bestowed upon itself the power to stop any candidate from taking part in elections. This structure has nothing to do with Islam and is a draconian powerhouse created by Iranian theocracy to keep a stranglehold on Iran's body politic.

The cracks that appeared immediately after the Presidential election are not so much because Iranians want Mousavi to be their President, but because they are sick and tired of the draconian rule by the mullahs for the last thirty years.

Prior to the Islamic revolution, Iranians suffered under the brutal and self serving regime of Shah of Iran and his vicious secret service - Savak. The 1979 revolution was not so much pro Khomeini but an anti Shah uprising. However, the people did not bargain for a theocratic led stranglehold on their daily lives. The frustration spilling out on Iranian street today is because of restriction on personal liberties and imposition of harsh rules on daily lives of Iranians especially on women.

For the first time clergy's power and the Guardian Council's stranglehold has been seriously challenged. The question is, where do things go from here? Continued confrontation will lead to more bloodshed. The chances are that clergy and Ahmadinajed will win this round and keep their hold on power, but for how long that is the question? This may not be the end but the beginning of the end for the clergy.

Also, at this time there is no apparent alternative to the system in place. The mullahs were clever enough to have enshrined their powers in the constitution which they wrote and had Majlis approve it.

Will the Iranian Military take over and throw out the clergy and the constitution with it? That may get rid of the mullahs, but will not be a good thing in itself. Both Ahmadinajed and Khamenei have support in rural areas and in the mosque and that could lead to a major unrest and possibly a civil war in Iran and that is no one's interest.

It has to be seen how all this plays out. Beyond moral support and electronic enabling, the Iranian people must be left alone to fight their battle for freedom and democracy. Any hint of behind the scenes involvement of CIA, MI6 or any other western intelligence agency will severely damage the cause of the people. The Iranian Government will use that as an excuse to label protesters as American/Western backed and crack down on them even more severely. So however tempting it may be, my suggestion to CIA and MI6 is to back off

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Pakistan is in turmoil. Its 170 million inhabitants are watching hopelessly as endemic corruption of its political leaders, fattened incompetent military Generals (through repeated military coups) and disastrous U.S. policies in the region are bringing the country down. A few thousand illiterate, bearded, terror infested bunch of mullahs are trying to threaten the very existence of the State.

A country with ample fresh water supply from its five rivers, an extensive canal irrigation system, fertile land, rich in food, fruit and with hard working people trying to make a better life for themselves should never be in this predicament.

Ever since its creation in 1947, incompetent and corrupt Pakistani leaders have surrendered its independence and sovereignty to the United States and the West. Pakistan's participation in contentious SEATO & CENTO defense facts caused it to be the target of Soviet Union. The US U2 spy flight flown by Garry Powers in the sixties originated from a Pakistani air base and was shot down by the Soviets, causing Nikita Khrushchev to threaten Pakistan (the famous shoe incidence at the United Nations).

The successive U.S. Administrations have supported military dictators in Pakistan. George W. Bush's mantra of spreading democracy sounded pretty hollow while he was busy supporting Musharraf. The U.S. Treasury claims to have given $10 billion to Musharraf regime, where has this money gone? The people of Pakistan have certainly not seen it, nor benefited from it, so when the US Senators & Congressmen repeat the $10 billion mantra, people of Pakistan laugh and wonder what the hell they are talking about!

Even the current political dispensation in Pakistan was structured in Washington under Condi Rice's conniving scheme. The late Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari faced a number of criminal corruption cases in courts in Pakistan, Switzerland and U.K, but once a deal was cut with Musharraf, suddenly all of the cases disappeared in thin air. Mr. Zardari now occupies the Presidency - albeit democratically elected.

Most of the damage to State of Pakistan has been caused by the aftermath of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The prospect of Soviet Union controlling the Hormuz Straits, hence the world oil supply sent chills down Pentagon and White House spines. They came running to Pakistan to help them launch a proxy war to stop Soviets reaching the warm waters of Persian Gulf. Now the much maligned ISI of Pakistan became the corner stone of US policy as CIA knew little (if anything) about Afghanistan. With U.S. and Middle Eastern funding, Madrassahs were set up in Pakistan to indoctrinate/train Afghans and Pakistanis as Mujaheddin fighters, many of whom later became Taliban. Rumor has it that the current U.S. Defense Secretary, Bill Gates was involved in this effort and one of his charges was Osama bin Ladin.

No sooner had the Soviets retreated, the U.S. cut and ran leaving a fractured Afghanistan with no Government or political structures, a fragile Pakistan with three million Afghan refugees on its soil (one million Afghan refugees are camped in Pakistan) leaving behind thousands of stinger missiles and other weaponry in the hands of an undisciplined rag tag bunch of Mujaheddin. Not only did the U.S. leave Pakistan in peril, it also imposed economic sanctions on it leaving the country in a dire economic state.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton get it when they say "we are reaping what we sowed". No matter how good the intentions of U.S. leaders, people of Pakistan are reluctant to trust them again. They feel that U.S. does not have the stomach or the desire to resolve Afghan situation and it will cut and run in a couple of years leaving more turmoil behind.

The problem is that Afghan war is turning Pakistani Pashtuns into Taliban as they feel they are supporting their fellow Pashtun brethren in Afghanistan against foreign occupying forces. The increasing US drone attacks inside Pakistan are making the situation even worse as they feel Pakistan Government is complicit in these attacks and is therefore acting as an agent of United States.

The U.S. needs to change its Afghan policy and VERY SOON to pacify that country politically, not militarily. Karzai should be asked to bring all ethnic groups (including Pashtuns) to the table into a Government of national unity, so the healing can begin and foreign forces can leave.

In Pakistan, a huge development effort is needed in the two western provinces bordering Afghanistan. Economic opportunities need to be created, by a massive building program, schools, colleges, markets, roads, highways and airports need to be built to make the area more accessible. Young people need to taken out of madrassahs and enrolled in schools and colleges and they need jobs. Rather than spending hundreds of billions of dollars on war effort, a Martial type plan of (say) $30 billion would revolutionize this area into peace and prosperity within a few years. The Pashtuns are not looking to fight wars, except they have nothing else to do.

If the U.S. cannot do this to attain peace and prosperity in the region and to recompense Pakistan for the havoc wreaked by its policies, then I want it to get the hell out of the country and from that whole region.

Until recently the Pakistani public have been wondering, to what end has the country spent 50% of its budget each year on armed forces, so they can stage a coup from time to time and surrender Swat to rag tag mullahs? In fact there was even been a serious danger of military becoming irrelevant. But thank God the army has now taken the initiative to quell the self appointed sharia leaders of the region. And in this effort, the entire Pakistani nation is behind its military. General Kiyani is a serious man and so far he has set a good example of staying far away from politics. He needs to stay that way and focus on putting down the uprising once and for all. The mullahs may have the support of extremist elements, but not from a vast majority of 170 million Pakistanis. They want peace and prosperity for their country and want to put an end to past rivalries with neighbors. They want to turn their country into an economic powerhouse.

This is a defining moment for Pakistani politicians and its military. The politicians need to put aside their differences and come together to deliver what the people have elected them for - law and order, economic prosperity, health and education, peace and a great deal more. The Military needs to establish its writ over the rogue Taliban elements once and for all so they don't challenge the State of Pakistan ever again with their twisted brand of sharia law. GET ME MY COUNTRY BACK DAMMIT.

Friday, March 27, 2009

U. S. Policy is Flawed in Afghanistan

President Obama's new policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan is seriously flawed and sending more American and Nato troops is fraught with danger.

The question is, who is the U.S. fighting in Afghanistan, the Afghan people? How can a foreign force fight the locals and on what basis - they are fundamentalist fanatics? But aren't there fundamentalist fanatics around the world including the U.S.? If the U.S. is fighting Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, didn't the U.S. have ample opportunity to eliminate them in the past. According to some of the members of CIA's advanced team of operatives (well documented on CNN) they had Osama bin Ladin within sights at Tora Bora even before the Afghan invasion started but Donald Rumsfeld refused to order air raids! Perhaps OBL was needed alive to provide a reason for Iraq invasion.

There is no doubt that Taliban are extremist religious fanatics who wish to impose their archaic view of Islam over Afghanistan. There is also no doubt that this extreme view of religion is rejected by a vast majority of 1.3 billion Muslims around the world. But Taliban have never attacked the U.S. forces until they invaded Afghanistan, so why is the U.S. fighting them and to what end? If the purpose is to bring Taliban into mainstream fold so they moderate their views and become a useful member of the society, bombing and killing them is not going to accomplish the objective.

It is important to understand the ethnic mix of Afghans which is comprised of Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Shias and the majority Pashtuns. All of the Taliban come from majority Pashtun tribes. Pashtuns straddle across the Pakistan border in Baluchistan and North West Frontier province. The ties between Pashtun tribes go back thousands of years and artificial borders are meaningless to them. In its invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. was misled by the Northern Alliance (comprising minority non-Pashtun groups) that Taliban is the enemy. Though Hamid Karzai is a Pashtun, but minority non-Pashtuns have held sway over the Afghan Government ever since the U.S. invasion. This has caused a massive backlash amongst Pashtuns who feel they are being deprived of their fair right by the U.S. and its allies. As a result they support and finance the Taliban because they feel they are fighting their battle.

Some brilliant minds in Rumsfeld's Pentagon and the CIA also exacerbated the problem by allowing Afghans to re cultivate poppy, which was completely eradicated by previous Taliban Government. The thinking perhaps was that if Afghans are happy with their cash crop, they will not attack U.S. and Nato forces. But guess what, the cash from poppy crops is flowing into the hands of Taliban with which they are buying weapons to kill U.S. and Nato soldiers.

The solution of Afghanistan does not lie in war, drone attacks or in killing Taliban. Didn't the Soviet Union try this already with a much larger and a more equipped force and failed miserable at it? If the U.S. continues to follow this course, the outcome will be no different. In addition, U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan border areas are radicalizing the Pashtun belt to such an extent that they are becoming a menace to the Pakistan Government to the extent of destabilizing Pakistan. Many in Pakistan believe that sooner or later U.S. will walk away from Afghanistan and leave this enormous problem in their lap, just as it did after the withdrawal of Soviet forces leaving a destabilized Afghanistan in Pakistan's lap.

What Afghanistan needs is peace and security and that will be achieved by dialogue. Pashtuns need a fair share of power and Taliban need to be brought to the negotiating table. A Government of national unity needs to be formed in Afghanistan and foreign troops need to leave soon thereafter. Foreign troops are the main cause of fighting, Pashtuns & Taliban look at them as foreign invaders just as they did the Soviet troops. Only the United Nations troops should be stationed in Afghanistan to ensure stability and peace between various tribes.

Afghanistan has been at war since 1979 and it is time to stop. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan need peace. The drone attacks on Pakistan have accomplished absolutely nothing (regardless of Pentagon's convoluted claims) except for killing poor villagers in the border areas.

What is needed is a massive development effort. A 'Marshall' type plan to pull out Afghanistan and Pakistan's frontier region from the 15th century to the present can bring enormous benefits and change the mindset of the people in that region. Continuation of present policy of more troops and more war will only turn Afghanistan into another Vietnam for President Obama. One hopes he has the foresight not to fall into that trap.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

President Obama & Afghanistan

President Obama is getting ready to send another 17,000 troops to Afghanistan. No doubt, things are not going well in that war and Taliban have gained ground lately. But is sending more troops a wise move or will Afghanistan become for Obama what Vietnam became for Johnson - a great folly?

After 9/11 United States had justification to attack Afghanistan because that is where Al-Qaeda planned and perpetrated attacks on New York. The initial military operation was well accomplished, but the subsequent political moves have not been savvy. United States has a fundamental deficiency that not having been a colonial power like U.K. and France, it has never had detailed ground knowledge of far off places like Afghanistan.

The British fought the Afghans for nearly 200 years and could never gain complete control. The Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan with 140,000 troops, air planes, tanks, artillery and all kinds of weaponry and yet it lost the war and had to withdraw in shame leading to its break up. Now the U.S. and its NATO allies want to gain control of Afghanistan with just over 50,000 troops, so what are the chances of NATO's success?

The Afghan problem is no longer military (that purpose was achieved immediate after the US dislodged the Taliban), but it is a political problem. The ethnic Afghan make up comprises Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and other smaller groups. Pashtuns are in majority and all of the Taliban are Pashtun. Though Mr. Hamid Karzai is a Pashtun, but for many years now the US has vested major power centers with Northern Alliance players and that is not acceptable to the Pashtun majority. After Taliban were dislodged, what was needed was a unity Government with fair representation to all including majority representation to Pashtuns, but that has not happened to this day and that is the root cause of the Afghan problem.

Some of the moderate Taliban were willing to talk to the US to become part of Afghan Government. The former Taliban Foreign Minister, Mullah Mutawakkal offered to mediate with Taliban but because of domination by Non-Pashtun Northern Alliance, both the US and Afghan Government refused to deal with the Taliban. Over time sympathies for Taliban have increased. Various Pashtun Government officials, businessmen and warlords may appear to be with Karzai Government, but they not only sympathize but also fund the Taliban's fight because they feel it is their fight too.

Another disastrous policy that has had enormous impact on Afghan situation is re- plantation of poppy (Taliban Government had completely eradicated it). Some brilliant minds in the CIA & Bush Administration felt that if allowed to grow poppy, Afghans will be happy and content and not fight against them! Well, the outcome has been the opposite, funds generated by sale of poppy are flowing into Taliban hands to purchase more guns and hardware to extend the fight with.

Another significant difficulty in fighting this war is that NATO is a foreign force and Taliban are local. The populace supports the fighters the same way they supported Mujaheddin against Soviet invasion. They consider NATO forces as foreign invaders and feel justified to fight them. The Afghan Government of Hamid Karzai is impotent and considered a puppet regime despite being democratically elected. In reality Mr. Karzai's domain does not extend beyond Kabul and the rest of the country is the wild wild west.

The resolution of Afghan situation is in bringing all parties to the table for a dialogue including the Taliban. After all, it is their country too. Fresh elections need to be called based on fair representation for all to replace the current Northern Alliance dominated Western backed Government. Also NATO troops need to leave Afghanistan as they will always be treated as a foreign occupying force and as long they remain in Afghanistan, Taliban will fight them. They need to be replaced by UN troops drawn from a broad spectrum of nations to oversee peace.

What Afghanistan needs more than anything else is a major reconstruction effort to bring the country out of fifteenth century into the twenty first. Instead of wasting money on fighting, a $50 billion Marshall Plan is needed to build infrastructure, educational and health institutions and capacity building. That entire Frontier region of Pakistan and the whole of Afghanistan could benefit substantially from such an effort. Taliban could be history if an honest effort is made in this direction. Just sending more troops could increase the fight and make Afghanistan into another Vietnam with no end in sight.

Monday, January 26, 2009


President Barack Obama's appointment of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as Special Envoy to the Middle East is to be applauded. Senator Mitchell is an even handed, shrewd negotiator. He was the main architect of peace in Northern Ireland, which was probably as difficult an assignment as the Middle East if not more due to the length of that dispute. If anyone can bring peace to the Middle East, Senator Mitchell can, especially with the full backing of President Obama.

Irrespective of Israel's recent misguided foray into Gaza, its Government and leading political parties are talking reality after a long time. For the first time its Prime & Foreign Ministers seem to acquiesce the Saudi monarch's peace formula floated in 2002.

Apart from other obstacles, the disarray of Palestinian political leadership will pose a major problem. Mahmoud Abbas, the President of Palestinian Authority is no longer in a position to speak for all Palestinians as he has no writ over Gaza. He is also looked upon by most Palestinians as a U.S./Israeli plant, hence he lacks credibility. The leadership of Hamas has no writ over the West Bank, so they cannot speak for all of Palestine either.

A new leadership needs to emerge amongst the Palestinians, but much of their future leaders languish in Israeli prisons. One Palestinian leader who can command respect in the West Bank and Gaza alike is MARWAN BARGHOUTI and Israel knows it too. Despite incarceration, Barghouti has been instrumental in starting an education program amongst Palestinian prisoners in Israel. He is also responsible for starting a behind the scenes peace movement. Having split from Fatah, he has started his own Political Party - Al-Mustaqbal - the Future. In 2004 his announcement to run for President of Palestinian Authority ran chills down Fatah's leaders and they had to plead with him to withdraw.

Barghouti is possibly the one leader who can unite and speak for all Palestinians and negotiate with Israel a lasting and a permanent settlement. In time, he can also reduce political influence of Hamas in Gaza. Israel needs to release him and many other Palestinians leaders who are languishing in their prisons for no reason except that they oppose Israeli occupation. I hope one of first tasks Senator Mitchell will do, is ask Israel to release him and other Palestinian leaders immediately.

Soon thereafter Palestinian Authority needs to hold general elections in the West Bank & Gaza so a new leadership can emerge through a popular mandate. This is essential if the United States, Israel and Arab countries want a credible Palestinian peace partner. Meanwhile Israel should open all check points to Gaza, so food and fuel can flow again. Freezing the checkpoints has led to digging of numerous tunnels from Gaza to Egypt. If Israel is seeking a long term settlement, it must show compassion and not restrict humanitarian supplies.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's peace plan calls for a complete Israeli withdrawal from territories captured in the 1967 i.e all of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. In return, Israel will not only get recognition from all Arab countries but will have full trading rights with them. This means moving out from the settlements in the West Bank and giving up East Jerusalem. This could pose some political problems for the Israeli Government from right wingers, but Israel has to decide whether it wants to keep fighting for another 60 years or coexist peacefully with a fully empowered Palestinian State next door.

In return, the Palestinians will have to make permanent peace with Israel and forgo all other claims. The refugees expelled from what is now Israel will have to give up their claims in exchange for land in the West Bank.

A great deal of time has been lost due to George W. Bush's foolish policies in the Middle East over the last eight years. However, it is still not too late and if the United States becomes an honest broker, peace in the Middle East can be achieved sooner than most people think.

Friday, January 23, 2009


George W. Bush, War Criminal-in-Chief

Dick Cheney, Joint War Criminal-in-Chief

Paul Wolfowitz, War Criminal Planner-in-Chief

Donald Rumsfeld, War Criminal Executioner-in-Chief

Richard Perle, War Criminal Co-Planner

Condoleezza Rice, War Criminal Co-Conspirator

Will The International Court at The Hague please stand up and indict these war criminals who have wreaked death and destruction on humanity and have made human beings suffer through Abu Ghuraib, Guantanamo Bay, renditions and an illegal war in Iraq?