ROVING EYE Taliban deliver hammer blow to
NATO By Pepe Escobar
Spin masters from Washington to Brussels
to Kabul are bound for many a sleepless night.
World public opinion has been relentlessly shocked
and awed by the chimera that the United States and
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are
"winning" the AfPak combo war.
Now for the
facts on the ground. Immediately after the US
government decided to "suspend" US$800 million in
aid to the Pakistan army, Pakistan Defense
Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told local Express TV
channel, "If at all things become difficult, we
will just get all our forces back" - hinting there
would be no more
troops from Islamabad
fighting Pashtun-majority guerrillas in the tribal
Mukhtar couldn't have been more
explicit; "If Americans refuse to give us money,
then okay ... We cannot afford to keep the
military out in the mountains for such a long
This graphically shows, once
again, the Pakistani army is - reluctantly -
counter-terrorism/counter-insurgency game in the
tribal areas. As much as Islamabad may fear
Pashtun nationalism, the army knows it must
proceed with extreme caution, otherwise it will
face a mass tribal Pashtun rebellion that would
put on the table the supreme taboo; the
consolidation of Pashtunistan, breaking up
Pakistan as we know it.
Then there was President Hamid Karzai, the
puppet who barely controls his own throne in
Kabul, according to local lore, talking in a joint
news conference with the visiting liberator of
Libya, neo-Napoleonic French President Nicolas
Karzai said, "Inside the houses
of Afghan people, we have all suffered from the
same kind of pain. And our hope is that, God
willing, there will be an end to the pain and
suffering of Afghan people, and peace and security
will be implemented."
Arguably not many
Afghans will feel "the same kind of pain" when
confronted by the assassination of Ahmad Wali
Karzai, the president's half-brother, a major drug
dealer, an asset on the US Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) payroll and the top powerbroker in
Kandahar as head of the Kandahar provincial
Considering the Taliban may
actually control as much as 70% of the country,
the assassination is a sterling coup, with
responsibility duly claimed by the Taliban via
spokesman Usuf Ahmadi: "This is one of our biggest
achievements since the spring operation began. We
assigned Sardar Mohammad to kill him recently and
Sardar Mohammad is also martyred."
counter-spin in Kandahar has Sardar Mohammad, a
trusted Karzai commander issued from the same
Popolzai tribe, killing Ahmed Wali with two shots
on the head, "on drugs", and for personal reasons.
The Taliban anyway are already winning the
public relations war. Since the spring of 2010,
the Taliban have managed to kill the provincial
chief of police of Kandahar, the deputy governor,
the district chief for Arghandab, and the deputy
mayor of Kandahar City.
Now they got rid
of the major pro-Washington actor not only in
Kandahar but in the whole south of Afghanistan -
where NATO has been involved en masse to crush the
Taliban in their spiritual home and favored
grounds. The assassination smashes to bits the
hegemonic "NATO is winning" narrative.
The King of Kandahar I spent a
long afternoon with Ahmad Wali in Quetta, the
capital of Balochistan province in Pakistan, when
the US was bombing the Taliban in the autumn of
2001 - weeks before he and his half-brother
transitioned from "kebab sellers" (the word in the
street) to political heavyweights.
already a CIA asset - at the time the US was busy
parachuting Hamid Karzai inside Afghanistan - and
a major opium smuggler, not to mention tribal
leader and a much more assertive personality than
During the 2000s, he
kept all these roles, as well as owning hotels,
real estate and even a Toyota dealership, but most
of all struggling to "contain" Kandahar, always
heavily Talibanized, as commander of the Kandahar
Strike Force, a hardcore, private paramilitary
group that helps US Special Forces and the CIA in
targeted assassinations of top Taliban commanders.
He was the de facto governor, popularly
known as "The King of Kandahar" - much more
powerful than the governor and the toothless
The lesson Tajiks,
Uzbeks, Hazaras and secular Pashtuns are learning
from his assassination is that the Karzai
government is a sham (well, most Afghans already
knew it) - incapable of protecting even the most
powerful of the Karzais. As for the fiction that
NATO is in the process of conquering Afghans'
hearts and minds and making them fall in love with
the central government in Kabul - you can try to
spin that to a rock face in the Hindu Kush.
So much for NATO "winning" in Afghanistan.
As for the US "winning" in the Pakistani tribal
areas, one just has to turn to what powerful chief
of army staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani - a
Pentagon darling - and head of the Inter-Services
Intelligence Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha,
are thinking. Via their minions, they are saying
they can get by without the "suspended" $800
million from Washington, or ask "all-weather
friend" China for anything they need.
According to Pentagon spokesman Colonel
David Lapan, Islamabad can have the $800 million
if its issues a lot more visas for, essentially,
US spies, and reinstates widespread training of
Pakistanis in counter-terrorism and
counter-insurgency. Islamabad - already dealing
with a US drone war over the tribal areas - is not
The "winner" in this case is
really al-Qaeda, which has used the Pakistani
Taliban in a confrontation against the Pakistani
army in the tribal areas as a diversion tactic,
while plotting to expand its caliphate-driven
agenda towards Central Asia.
wasn't the US "winning" against al-Qaeda? That's
what General David Petraeus - now transitioning
from top commander in Afghanistan to CIA chief -
has been spinning; "There has been enormous damage
done to al-Qaeda in the Federally Administered
Tribal Areas ... and it does hold the prospect of
really a strategic defeat" for al-Qaeda.
Well, not really - unless you drone the
tribal areas to death.