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Entries in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (2)


Video and Transcript: David Petraeus on "Fox News Sunday"

Related Post: David Petraeus on CNN’s “State of the Union”

petraeus2The centrepiece of the Obama Administration's Afghanistan-Pakistan sales pitch this weekend is not one but two appearances by General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, who showed up on "Fox News Sunday" before moving to CNN for "State of the Union".


CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us from U.S. Central Command in Florida is General David Petraeus, who oversees American military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.

And, General, welcome back to “FOX News Sunday.”

PETRAEUS: Good to be with you, Chris. Thanks.

WALLACE: General, let’s start with Pakistan. The military there has launched a new offensive against the Taliban in the Swat Valley. Is there any sign that this is different from earlier Pakistani military campaigns, which have not been effective?

PETRAEUS: There are a number of signs of difference, actually, Chris.

First of all, the actions of the Pakistani Taliban pushing below the Swat Valley into Dir and Buner seem to have galvanized all of Pakistan, not just the president and the prime minister, but also even the opposition leaders, virtually all the elements of the political spectrum and the people, in addition to, of course, the -- the military.

So there is a degree of unanimity that there must be swift and effective action taken against the Taliban in Pakistan.

And this is reflected also, as has been announced by the Pakistani leaders, the shift of forces from the eastern part of their country faced off against India to the North-West Frontier Province areas where the fighting is already ongoing and where more presumably will be conducted.

WALLACE: But the fact is that -- and I know you have been critical of this. A lot of military experts in the past -- the Pakistani army tends to fight the war that they would fight against the Indians, with heavy artillery, with air ships -- you know, with war planes fighting.

Do -- do you have the sense that they have the counterinsurgency strategy that makes you confident that they can beat the Taliban in the Swat Valley?

PETRAEUS: Well, we did have some good conversations this past week in Washington as part of the trilateral process that you’ve reported.

And during that, it was very clear in discussions with everyone, from President Zardari through the other members of the delegation that there’s an understanding that this does have to be a whole-of- government approach -- in other words, not just the military but all the rest of the elements of government supporting the military -- so that they can reestablish basic services, repair the damage that is inevitably done by the bombardment of these areas in which the Taliban are located, and to take care of the internally displaced persons.

And there’s an enormous effort ongoing in that regard, our State Department, other countries, all trying to help the U.N., which is the agency on the front lines there, trying to take care of these refugees that are streaming out of the Swat Valley.

WALLACE: General, you reportedly told top U.S. officials recently that the next two weeks were critical to determine the survival of the Pakistani government.

If we’re talking about something as existential as that, what are the chances that the Islamic radicals could get their hands on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal?

PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, the reports of what I said were a little bit more than what I actually said behind closed doors several weeks ago, at which time I said that, in fact, the next few weeks would be very important and, to a degree, pivotal in the future for Pakistan.

And I think that that has been proven accurate. Indeed, now the Pakistani government, military, people have all responded, and certainly the next few weeks will be very important in this effort to roll back, if you will, this existential threat, a true threat to Pakistan’s very existence that has been posed by the Pakistani Taliban.

With respect to the -- the nuclear weapons and -- and sites that are controlled by Pakistan, as President Obama mentioned the other day, we have confidence in their security procedures and elements and believe that the security of those sites is adequate.

WALLACE: But -- but to press the point, if I may, because, as you say, you are talking about an existential threat from Islamic radicals, can you assure the American people and the rest of the world that the U.S. will not allow those Pakistani nuclear weapons to get into the hands of Islamic radicals?

PETRAEUS: Well, this is not a U.S. assurance that matters. This is a Pakistani assurance. And also, by the way, I should point out, Chris, this is not a U.S. fight that Pakistan is carrying out at this point in -- in this effort.

This is a Pakistani fight, a Pakistani battle, with elements that, as we’ve mentioned, threaten the very existence of the Pakistani state.

WALLACE: You also said this week that Al Qaida has reemerged in northwestern Pakistan as a centrally organized operation capable of planning attacks in other countries.

Is Al Qaida back in business, sir?

PETRAEUS: Well, Al Qaida has been back in business for years, Chris. There is not an enormous revelation here. What I was merely saying was that the location of Al Qaida’s senior leadership is, indeed, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of that very rugged border region of western Pakistan just east of Afghanistan.

There’s no question that Al Qaida’s senior leadership has been there and has been in operation for years. We had to contend with its reach as it sought to facilitate the flow of foreign fighters, resources, explosives, leaders and expertise into Iraq, as you’ll recall, through Syria.

We see tentacles of Al Qaida that connect to Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, the elements Al-Shabab in Somalia, elements in north central Africa, and that strive to reach all the way, of course, into Europe and into the United States.

And of course, there were attacks a couple of years ago in the U.K. that reflected the reach of the transnational extremist elements of Al Qaida and the other movements in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

WALLACE: And -- and, General, do you believe that bin Laden and Zawahiri are still in charge of Al Qaida?

PETRAEUS: We do. Again, I don’t think anyone can give you any kind of accurate location for bin Laden or, frankly, for Zawahiri other than a general description of where that might be, but certainly, they surface periodically.

We see communications that they send out. And of course, they periodically send out videos in which they try to exhort people and to inspire individuals to carry out extremist activities.

WALLACE: General, let’s...

PETRAEUS: It’s important to note, by the way, Chris, that -- that these organizations, by the way, in the FATA have sustained some pretty significant losses over the course of the last six, eight, 10 months or so.

And there is a good deal of disruption that has taken place but, of course, that’s transitory in nature, and we’ll have to see how the security operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas -- different from, of course, the fight in the -- in the Swat and North- West Frontier Province areas go.

WALLACE: General, let’s turn to Afghanistan. It has been widely reported that as many as 147 civilians, Afghan civilians, were killed after U.S. air strikes in western Afghanistan. I know you’ve been investigating the circumstances and the responsibility for that. At this point, what do you know?

PETRAEUS: Well, in fact, I should note, first of all, that I had a very good conversation with President Karzai about this, about some statements, of course, that he’s made in recent days, and we’re going to have to work our way through this.

I would point everyone to -- and we sent you a copy, of course, of the joint press release -- again, put out by the Afghan and U.S. elements in Kabul yesterday after their initial investigating team came back, which clearly described the sequence of events that took place, with the Taliban moving into these villages, seeking to extort money from them, eventually killing three of the citizens in that area, then engaging the Afghan police who responded, which led to the governor of that province, Farah province, requesting help from the Afghan national army and coalition forces.

It was in that response that, of course, this very significant firefight broke out, battle, that ultimately resulted in the dropping of bombs which clearly killed Taliban and some civilians that it appears the Taliban forced to remain in houses from which the Taliban was engaging our forces.

Now, we are going to do a very thorough investigation of this. I’ve appointed a brigadier general with extensive experience in conventional and special operations who will go out to Afghanistan and look at it more broadly as well, to ensure that our forces are very well acquainted with in -- in carrying out the directives that General McKiernan has put out so that our tactical actions don’t undermine our strategic goals and objectives.

And that’s essentially the conversation that President Karzai and I had yesterday on this particular topic.

WALLACE: General, you also say that the Taliban is mounting a surge of its own to protect its safe havens in eastern Afghanistan. President Obama has announced that he’s going to send another 21,000 troops to the country.

Are you getting all the troops you need? And what kind of assurances are you getting from the president about his willingness to send more troops if necessary, his commitment to win in Afghanistan?

PETRAEUS: Well, I’d just state that every request for forces that -- that I’ve sent to the secretary of defense and that has gone to the president has been approved, and that carries all the requests through the course of this calendar year.

There are requests beyond that for which decisions don’t need to be made for a number of months, and I’m confident those decisions will be made at that point in time.

We have gone so far as to shift some forces that just -- we don’t have enough of in the inventory -- which, by the way, is why Secretary Gates’ budget addresses these kind of so-called enablers, the low- density, high-demand units -- to shift some of these from Iraq to Afghanistan, in fact, to ensure that -- that the infrastructure is established and that the kinds of forces that they need to enable this significant augmentation of our forces is made possible.

WALLACE: There is also growing violence in Iraq, amid signs that the Iraqi government is dropping some of the counterinsurgency tactics that you introduced into Iraq. Jobs programs in Sunni areas are -- are being ended. The Sunni “Awakening” -- these are Sunni forces that are fighting Sunni insurgents -- some of those units have not been paid for most of this year.

Are we giving back -- is the Iraqi government giving back some of the gains that we worked so hard to establish on the ground in Iraq?

PETRAEUS: Well, first of all, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the “Sons of Iraq,” these Sunni “Awakening” forces, have not been paid this year. There is drama and emotion with every single payday, but the vast majority of these “Sons of Iraq” have been paid during the pay periods.

There’s another one ongoing right now. Inevitably, names are lost, mixed up, or what have you. But over time, we feel quite comfortable with what the Iraqi government has done in taking care of these “Sons of Iraq” and on taking them all now onto their payroll rather than being on ours.

The level of violence, actually, has been roughly about the same for the last five or six months, which is quite significant. It has averaged between 10 and 15 attacks per day for that period, which equates to a level of violence not seen since the late summer of 2003 before the insurgency and well before the militia activities accumulated that led to, at one time, 160 attacks per day in Iraq in June of 2007. What we have seen and what is troubling, certainly, has been the incidence of sensational attacks, if you will, high-casualty-causing attacks. Particularly, we saw these in Baghdad a few weeks ago.

That did prompt a number of attacks with Iraqi conventional and special operations forces, together with our forces, to go after the reemerging networks of Al Qaida.

We should expect that Al Qaida will continue to try to reestablish itself in Iraq, even as the focus of Al Qaida’s senior leadership appears to have shifted away somewhat from support of the activities in Iraq.

WALLACE: I’ve got a couple of...

PETRAEUS: But we will see this periodically. There will be periodic upticks in that regard.

WALLACE: If I may, sir, we’ve got a couple of more questions I want to ask you, and we’re beginning to run out of time.

I want to follow up on this last point, because all U.S. combat troops are supposed to be out of Iraqi cities by the end of June of this year.

But General Odierno, the head of U.S. forces in Iraq, now says that 20 percent of our combat forces are going to stay behind in Baghdad and Mosul past that deadline. Why is that, sir?

PETRAEUS: Well, what we are in the process of doing and have been doing is withdrawing the bases of our combat forces from Iraq cities and large towns. That process has been ongoing. It’s gone smoothly. We still do have some of those bases in Baghdad and Mosul, but we think that they will be out.

What General Odierno was talking about were liaison elements, adviser elements, organizations that partner with Iraqi forces in the support of them, not in the conduct of our combat operations.

So certainly, there will be a presence, but there will not be the combat forces based in those cities as we have had in the past, and that is in accordance with the security agreement.

WALLACE: Finally, General, and we have about a minute left, let’s turn, finally, to Iran.

President Obama has made several efforts to reach out to the Iranian regime. Whether it’s its nuclear program or arming our enemies in Iraq, do you see any signs on the ground that the Iranian regime is moderating its behavior?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think there’s probably been some small reduction in the assistance provided to Shia extremists in Iraq, although that continues, and again, it’s very difficult to measure because sometimes you have to have some event that precipitates something to be able to determine how much is ongoing. Beyond that, we’ll have to see as the weeks and months proceed. My deputy just accompanied Ambassador Ross in a swing through the region. There clearly -- enormous concern out there about Iranian rhetoric and actions, but we need to see how these diplomatic initiatives might be able to moderate and produce some openness and transparency in Iran, particularly with respect, of course, to its nuclear programs.

WALLACE: General Petraeus, we want to thank you for giving us a tour of all your responsibilities in that part of the world. Thank you for joining us, and please come back, sir.

PETRAEUS: Thank you, Chris.

Beyond the Summit: Pepe Escobar on Obama-Bush in Afghanistan-Pakistan

Latest Post: Obama Fiddles, Afghanistan and Pakistan Burn
Related Post: Dan Froomkin on Afghanistan and Pakistan

karzai-zardariReprinted from Asia Times Online:

Obama does his Bush impression

The "lasting commitment" Washington war-time summit/photo-op between United States President Barack Obama and the AfPak twins, "Af" President Hamid Karzai and "Pak" President Asif Ali Zardari was far from being an urgent meeting to discuss ways to prevent the end of civilization as we know it. It has been all about the meticulous rebranding of the Pentagon's "Long War".

In Obama's own words, the "lasting commitment" is above all to "defeat al-Qaeda". As an afterthought, the president added, "But also to support the democratically elected, sovereign governments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan." To have George W Bush's man in Kabul and former premier Benazir Bhutto's widow defined as "sovereign", one would be excused for believing Bush is still in the White House.

In yet another deployment of his impeccable democratic credentials, Karzai has just picked as one of his vice presidential running mates none other than former Jamiat-e-Islami top commander and former first vice president Mohammad Fahim, a suspected drug warlord and armed militia-friendly veteran whom Human Rights Watch deplores as a systematic human-rights abuser. Faheem is Tajik; Karzai is Pashtun (from a minor tribe). Karzai badly needs the Tajiks to win a second presidential term in August.

Possibly moved by the obligatory "deep regret" expressed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Karzai refrained from throwing a tantrum in Washington concerning the latest "precise" US air strike in ultra-remote Farah province in western Afghanistan which, according to local sources, may have incinerated over 100 Afghans, 70% of them women and children. Context is key: it was the inept, corrupt, dysfunctional Karzai administration - monopolized by warlords and bandits - which made so much easier the return of the Taliban in full force.

Obama's opium war

By now it's clear that the upcoming, Pentagon-enabled, summer surge in the "Af" section of Obama's war in AfPak will be deployed essentially as Obama's new opium war. In a spicy historic reversal, the British Empire (which practically annexed Afghanistan) wanted the Chinese to be hooked on its opium, while now the American empire wants Afghans to stop cultivating it.

The strategy boils down to devastating the Pashtun-cultivated poppy fields in southern Helmand province - the opium capital of the world. In practice, this will be yet another indiscriminate war against Pashtun peasants, who have been cultivating poppies for centuries. Needless to say, thousands will migrate to the anti-occupation rainbow coalition/motley crew branded as "Taliban".

Destroying the only source of income for scores of poor Afghans means, in Pentagon spin, "to cut off the Taliban's main source of money", which also happens to be the "main source of money" for a collection of wily, US-friendly warlords who will not resign themselves to being left blowing in the wind.

The strategy is also oblivious to the fact that the Taliban themselves receive scores of funding from pious Gulf petro-monarchy millionaires as well as from sections in Saudi Arabia - the same Saudi Arabia that Pentagon supremo Robert Gates is now actively courting to ... abandon the Taliban. Since the Obama inauguration in January, Washington's heavy pressure over Islamabad has been relentless: forget about your enemy India, we want you to fight "our" war against the Taliban and "al-Qaeda".

Thus, expect any Pashtun opium farmer or peasant who brandishes his ax, dagger, matchlock or rusty Lee-Enfield rifle at the ultra-high tech incoming US troops to be branded a "terrorist". Welcome to yet one more chapter of the indeed long Pentagon war against the world's poorest.

You're finished because I said so

As for the "Pak" component of AfPak, it is pure counter-insurgency (COIN). As such, His Master's Voice has got to be Central Command commander and surging General David "I'm always positioning myself for 2012" Petraeus.

Enter the Pentagon's relentless PR campaign. Last week, Gates warned the US Senate Appropriations Committee that without the approval of a US$400 million-worth Pakistan Counter-insurgency Capability Fund (itself part of a humongous, extra $83.5 billion Obama wants to continue prosecuting his wars), and under the "unique authority" of Petraeus, the Pakistani government itself could collapse. The State Department was in tune: Clinton said Pakistan might collapse within six months.

Anyone is excused for believing this tactic - just gimme the money and shut up - is still Bush "war on terror" territory; that's because it is (the same extraordinary powers, with the State Department duly bypassed, just as with the Bush administration). The final song, of course, remains the same: the Pentagon running the show, very tight with the Pakistani army.

For US domestic consumption purposes, Pentagon tactics are a mix of obfuscation and paranoia. For instance, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell says, about Pakistan, "This is not a war zone for the US military." But then Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - who's been to Pakistan twice in the past three weeks - says the Taliban in AfPak overall "threaten our national interests in the region and our safety here at home".

He was echoing both Clinton and Gates, who had said that the Taliban are an "existential threat" to Pakistan. Finally, Petraeus closes the scare tactics circle - stressing in a letter to the House Armed Services Committee that if the Pakistani Army does not prevail over the Taliban in two weeks, the Pakistani government may collapse.

That unveils the core of Pentagon's and David "COIN" Petraeus' thinking: they know that for long-term US designs what's best is yet another military dictatorship. Zardari's government is - rightfully - considered a sham (as Washington starts courting another dubious quantity, former premier Nawaz Sharif). Petraeus' "superior" man (his own word) couldn't be anyone but Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kiani.

And that's exactly how Obama put it in his 100-day press conference last week, stressing the "strong military-to-military consultation and cooperation" and reducing Zardari to smithereens ("very fragile" government, lacking "the capacity to deliver basic services" and without "the support and the loyalty of their people"). Judging by his body language, Obama must have repeated the same litany to Zardari yesterday, live in Washington.

The money quote still is Obama's appraisal of Pakistan: "We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don't end up having a nuclear-armed militant state."

Pakistani "sovereignty" is a joke; Pakistan is now openly being run from Washington. "We want to respect their sovereignty" does not mean "we" actually will. Obama and the Pentagon - which for all practical purposes treat Pakistan as a pitiful colony - would only be (relatively) comfortable with a new Pakistani military dictatorship. The fact that Pakistani public opinion overwhelmingly abhors the Taliban as much as it abhors yet another military dictatorship (see the recent, massive street demonstrations in favor of the Supreme Court justices) is dismissed as irrelevant.

The Swat class struggle

In this complex neo-colonial scenario Pakistan's "Talibanization" - the current craze in Washington - looks and feels more like a diversionary scare tactic. (Please see "The Myth of Talibanistan", Asia Times Online, May 1, 2009.) On the same topic, a report on the Pakistani daily Dawn about the specter of Talibanization of Karachi shows it has more to do with ethnic turbulence between Pashtuns and the Urdu-speaking, Indian-origin majority than about Karachi Pashtuns embracing the Taliban way.

The original Obama administration AfPak strategy, as everyone remembers, was essentially a drone war in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) coupled with a surge in Afghanistan. But the best and the brightest in Washington did not factor in an opportunist Taliban counter-surge.

The wily Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM - Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law), led by Sufi Muhammad, managed to regiment Swat valley landless peasants to fight for their rights and "economic redistribution" against the usual wealthy, greedy, feudal landlords who happened to double as local politicians and government officials.

It's as if the very parochial Taliban had been paying attention to what goes on across South America ... Essentially, it was the appropriation of good old class struggle that led to the Taliban getting the upper hand. Islamabad was finally forced to agree on establishing Nizam-e-Adl (Islamic jurisprudence) in the Swat valley.

So what happened in Swat is that it moved beyond a - corrupt - state, and neo-colonial control. Washington's enemy suddenly swelled to part of the 1.3 million people in the area whose only means of protection are armed militias - what the West bundles up as "Taliban".

It's always crucial to remember that the "Taliban" have all sorts of agendas, from armed resistance to US occupation in Afghanistan to armed resistance to Pakistani army incursions. What they all want is basically the end of Washington's drone war, the end of Pakistan's support for the "war on terror" in AfPak, or at least for the inept, corrupt Pakistani state to leave them alone.

It's true that over the past few weeks Pakistani public opinion as a whole shot up to around 95% against the Taliban because Sufi Muhammad said democracy is an infidel thing; and because videos of Taliban floggings for the fist time were all over Pakistani media.

But the solution is obviously not a war in Swat. It would be, for instance, a concerted, long-term government policy to defuse the network of at least 45,000 madrassas (seminaries) with nearly 2 million students all over the country. And to defuse anti-democratic, sectarian outfits like Lashkar-e Toiba and Sipah-e Sahaba.

It won't happen. And Washington does not care. What matters for the Pentagon is that the minute any sectarian outfit or bandit gang decides to collude with the Pentagon, it's not "Taliban" anymore; it magically morphs into a "Concerned Local Citizens" outfit. By the same token any form of resistance to foreign interference or Predator hell from above bombing is inevitably branded "Taliban".

Left to its own devices, the Pentagon solution for Swat would probably be some form of ethnic cleansing. Predictably, what Obama and the Pentagon are in fact doing - part of their cozying up with the Pakistani army - is to side with the feudal landlords and force a return to the classic Pakistani status quo of immense social inequality. Thus virtually every local who has not become a refugee (as many as 5000,000 already did, leading to a huge humanitarian crisis) has been duly branded a "terrorist". Locals are caught between a rock (the Taliban) and a hard place (the US-supported Pakistani military).

The Pentagon does not do "collateral damage". The only consideration is the US Army becoming partially exposed in neighboring Afghanistan. After all, the key AfPak equation for the Pentagon is how to re-supply US troops involved in OCO ("overseas contingency operations").

The Swat tragedy is bound to get bloodier. As Steve Clemons from The Washington Note blog has learned in a conference in Doha, Obama and Petraeus are forcing the Pakistani army to crush Swat. Once again the imperial "fire on your own people" logic. Predictably, Zardari and the Pakistani army are still against it. But if they accept - that would be a tangible result from the Washington photo-op on Wednesday - the prize will be a lot of money and loads of precious helicopter gun ships.

Madmen on the loose

The Obama administration not only has rebranded the Bush "global war on terror" (GWOT) as the subtly Orwellian "overseas contingency operations" (OCO). The key component of OCO - the AfPak front - is now being actively rebranded, and sold, not as an American war but a Pakistani war.

Zardari plays his pitiful bit part; alongside Obama, the Pentagon and the State Department, he has been convincing Pakistani public opinion to fight Washington's OCO, defending the Predator bombing of Pashtun civilians in Pakistani land. It ain't easy: at least 20% of Pakistani army soldiers are Pashtun - now forced to fight their own Pashtun cousins.

As for the "Af" element of AfPak, the war against occupation in Afghanistan has "disappeared" from the narrative to the benefit of this Pakistani "holy war" against Talibanization. What has not disappeared, of course, is US bombing of Afghan peasants (with attached Hillary "regrets") plus the Predator war in FATA.

The question is: How far will the Obama, the Pentagon and Zardari collusion go in terms of wiping out any form of resistance to the US occupation of Afghanistan and the drone war against Pashtun peasants in FATA?

The relentless warnings on the collapse of Pakistan may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Were it to happen, the balkanization of Pakistan would do wonders for the Pentagon's long-term strategy in the "arc of instability".

From a Pentagon dream scenario point of view, the balkanization of Pakistan would mean dismantling a "Terrorist Central" capable of contaminating other parts of the Muslim world, from Indian Kashmir to the Central Asian "stans". It would "free" India from its enemy Pakistan so India can work very closely with Washington as an effective counter power to the relentless rise of China.

And most of all, this still has to do with the greatest prize - Balochistan, as we'll see in part 2 of this report on Friday. Desert Balochistan, in southwest Pakistan, is where Washington and Islamabad clash head on. From a Washington perspective, Balochistan has to be thrown into chaos. That's about the only way to stop the construction of the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, also known as the "peace pipeline", which would traverses Balochistan.

In a dream Washington scenario of balkanization of Pakistan, the US could swiftly take over Balochistan's immense natural wealth, and promote the strategic port of Gwadar in Balochistan not to the benefit of the IPI pipeline, but the perennially troubled Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline - Caspian gas wealth flowing under US, and not Russian or Iranian, control.

As for the Taliban, whether in FATA or Swat or anywhere else, they are no threat to the US. Usman Khalid, secretary general of the Rifah party in Pakistan, has nailed it, "The population dread the Taliban-style rule but they dread being split into four countries and to go under Indian suzerainty even more. The Taliban appear to be the lesser evil just as they were in Afghanistan."

History once again does repeat itself as farce: in fact the only sticking point between the Taliban and Washington is still the same as in August 2001 - pipeline transit fees. Washington wouldn't give a damn about sharia law as long as the US could control pipelines crossing Afghanistan and Balochistan.

Yes, Pipelineistan rules. What's a few ragged Pashtun or Balochis in Washington's way when the New Great Game in Eurasia can offer so many opportunities?