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American troops back to combat in Afghanistan

Efforts to engage the Afghan Taliban for negotiations are in disorder since the United States last month killed their leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour. Another development has taken place, the US military has begun air attacks against Taliban targets in Afghanistan under new rules, allowing greater powers for US forces to go after the Taliban, making it easier for Afghan security forces to strike the insurgents. “There have been operations carried out with these new authorities,” Pentagon press Secretary Peter Cook said. “It’s fair to say that these strikes did target Taliban positions.” Initial strikes occurred in southern Afghanistan; and that American troops are back to combat in Afghanistan. Afghan security forces last year took the lead role in combat operations.

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Their performance has since been poor. More than 5,000 Afghan security forces were killed last year alone. Since 2015, the US forces have been in an advisory role with limited authority to hit Taliban targets for defensive reasons, or to protect Afghan troops.For the past 15 years the use of military force has failed to stabilise Afghanistan. Continued resort to military means will further destabilise the situation in Afghanistan and the region. Pakistan agreed to facilitate the first-ever direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban in Murree in June 2015. These talks were a promising start. But a day before the second round in which the two sides were to consider a de-escalation mechanism, the talks were de-railed. Second time the peace process was scuttled when a drone attack on May 21, killed Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour. It is certainly not by an accident that the peace process was scuttled twice in one year. The latter action has dealt a blow to the Afghan peace process and added to the intensity and complexity of the Afghan conflict.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s recent report on Afghanistan reinforces the firm international consensus, duly shared by Pakistan that, ‘Only by a negotiated political agreement will Afghans achieve sustainable peace’. However there is gap between the articulations and actions of some important actors; and for that it is difficult to ascertain the sincerity commitment of these actors towards peace in Afghanistan. Questioning America’s commitment to the Afghan peace process, Pakistan has warned that those seeking a renewed recourse to military-oriented solution need to think through its consequences. “Is it (US) ready to invest in war rather than peace in Afghanistan?” asked Pakistan’s Ambassador to United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi while speaking in the quarterly debate on Afghanistan at the UNSC.

While expressing Pakistan’s readiness to support a genuine Afghan peace process, Ambassador Lodhi warned that Pakistan will not tolerate violations of its sovereignty and its territorial integrity, “from whatever source”. Urging the Afghan government and the international coalition to take action against Pakistani Taliban elements, which have sought refuge in Afghanistan, she emphasised that the elimination of these sanctuaries was essential to peace and security.

The Wall Street Journal has reported on June 21 that some peacemakers viewed the drone strike that killed Mullah Mansour as a setback to their efforts to restore peace in Afghanistan. “Striking the leadership was a mistake,” said Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, secretary-general of The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. “We need to interact with the Taliban’s leadership, not take them out.”  He added. May 21 US drone strike was an ‘unacceptable and blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, the UN charter and international law’. Taliban have since stepped up attacks on government targets.

Presence of large number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan is a big security risk, terrorists and militants use the refugee camps as hideouts for their nefarious activities. There is a genuine perception that restoration of complete peace will remain a far cry as long as arrangements are not made for the early and voluntary repatriation of the refugees. There is a reasonable ground for this perception, alongside the visible successes Zarb-e-Azb operation, there is a stream of counter activity by some of the Afghans refugees who are not only involved in different crimes but are hand in glove with India to perpetrate acts of terrorism on Pakistani soil. They have also been found involved in getting fake Pakistani ID cards and passports. UNHCR should help the Afghan government in creating necessary environment inside Afghanistan so that these people could return with dignity.

Addressing a think tank, the Atlantic Council, in Washington on June 21, US special envoy on Afghanistan Richard Olson said that Pakistan’s concerns over India’s role in Afghanistan were “overestimated.” He disagreed with Pakistan’s concerns that India was using its strong presence in Afghanistan to stir trouble in Balochistan. He said: “India has been a supportive partner for Afghanistan. It has provided a limited amount but important military assistance (to Afghanistan).” He reminded Pakistani decision makers that they had their own security concerns and needed to focus on them. “Pakistan will not be secure, until and unless” it took action against terrorist organisations, like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, he added. He, however, acknowledged that the ongoing military operations in Waziristan had curbed terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, which resulted in reducing violence and stabilising the Pakistani economy. He appreciated Pakistan’s commitment to the Afghan peace process and urged Islamabad to use its influence on the Taliban to persuade them to join reconciliation talks.

Pakistan’s foreign office has challenged Olson’s the assertion, the spokesperson said on June 23: “I think we need to realise that ‘feeling’ is one thing and the ‘reality’ on ground is another…The ground reality is that we have arrested Kulbhushan Yadav, which is a solid proof of Indian state involvement in terrorism in Pakistan as well as in terror financing”. Earlier former US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel had stated that India finances instability in Pakistan. Further back in 2009 General Stanley McCrystal had also referred to this fact that India was causing and financing instability in Pakistan.

India’s goals in Afghanistan are to deny Pakistan strategic depth and the ability to block India from trade and other connections to Central Asia and beyond, says a US congressional report. While India wants to prevent Pakistan from regaining “preponderant” influence in present day Afghanistan, “it does not want to be saddled with the burden of helping secure Afghanistan” after the US departure, the report adds. The reality is that the US sees India as a key partner in Afghanistan’s future. And India wants to carry-out this role for imposing two front dilemma on Pakistan.

There have been encouraging developments too. Presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan met on the side-lines of the SCO, hopefully the two countries would soon put behind the bad taste created by Afghan security forces’ attack on an under construction gate close to Torkhum border post, well inside Pakistani territory. Earlier on the same venue, Pakistan’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs and Afghan Foreign Minister agreed on constituting a high level bilateral mechanism for consultation and coordination on various important issues, including security, movement of people and vehicles between the two countries and other relevant issues.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb is the largest and most effective anti-terrorism campaign anywhere in the world through which Pakistan has achieved substantial gains and is determined to eliminate all terrorist threats within the country. Afghan government and the international coalition need to take supplementary and complementary actions to consolidate the gains of this operation. And the Afghan government should launch similar effort against TTP in its territory; elimination of TTP sanctuaries is essential to peace and security in both countries. And finally, America should make up its mind regarding leaving or staying, because peace effort would take different trajectories for handling either of the options.

 

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How do we Promote Peace in India, Today?

Post from India: by Ram Puniyani We are passing through times when Hate against weaker sections of society and religious minorities is increasing by leaps and bounds. The increase in the mob lynching all over the country on the pretext of child lifting is coming on the back of mob lynching on the pretext cow-beef, public flogging-humiliation of dalits on the issue of beef and other issues related their caste humiliation. Mobs seem to be emboldened by the fact that there has been an approval of these acts from the top. Ministers like Mahesh Sharma came to the funeral of Dadri accused, now Mr. Jayant Sinha welcomed the accused of Alimuddin lynching accused when they got bail. The matters are frighteningly increasing as now the horrid incidents of rape are being given a communal twist, fake news is being employed with impunity on one side and rape accused are getting social support on the other. It’s a matter of shame that in case of Kathua the then Ministers from BJP Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, attended the event organized by Hindu Ekta Manch, which was protesting against the arrests in the case. Now in case of Mandsaur rape, the incident is being given false twist to demonize a community. The accused belonged to Muslim community. Muslim groups took out a procession demanding severe punishment to the accused. Jyotiradiya Scindiya of Congress joined a candle light procession to demand death penalty to the accused. Social media was used to spread the hateful message as if he was demanding the release of the accused. The pictures of procession were photo shopped to present Muslims in bad light. A message was circulated, which said that members of the Muslim community rallied in Mandsaur demanding that the perpetrator of the crime be released because the Quran sanctions rape of non-Muslim women. The text of the placards in the Mandsaur procession was “We won’t tolerate attacks on daughters, stop this brutality”. A tweet was circulated “NCRB report: India is most dangerous for women reason: In India, 95% of the rape cases have a Muslim perpetrator. Of the total 84734 rape cases, 81000 rapes had a Muslim rapist and 96% of the victims are non-Muslims and with an increase in theirpopulation, number of rapes will also increase.” Nothing can be farther from truth. NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) does not record the religion in cases of rape. This tweet and the one about Jyotiraditya Scindia was exposed by AltNews, the portal going to the roots of such fake news and is doing a great service to society by giving the truth and exposing the news which is deliberately trying to demonize the religious minority. One recalls that in case of Muzzafarnagar; the violence was incited by circulating a photo of two young men being beaten by a Muslim looking crowd. It was presented that Hindu youth are being beaten. As such that picture was from Pakistan, the crowd beating two thieves. Recently in Kairana the Mahagathbandhan candidate Tabassum Hasan won the election against the BJP candidate. After winning she stated “This is the victory of truth and ‘Mahagatbandhan’ (coalition) and defeat of the BJP in the state and Centre. Everyone has come out and supported us. I thank them.” On social media and on TV debates what was presented was that she said “This is the victory of Allah and defeat of Ram”. This quote was posted on a number of pro-BJP pages on Facebook among which Yogi Adityanath-True Indian posted it on 1 June, and was shared massively. One recalls that in recent times BJP has deliberately muddied the waters of social media by employing thousands of trolls, as Swati Chaturvedi’s “I am a Troll”, tells us. As such the hate propaganda began with demonization of Muslim kings for breaking Hindu temples in medieval period, for spreading Islam, for having large families, indulging in polygamy, being terrorists etc. Now it has taken a dangerous turn with people trained in communal ideology and in the use of social media twisting the facts blatantly. There are reports that in the forthcoming elections BJP is planning to train lakhs of volunteers in the use of social media for electoral gains. The rising hatred is becoming like a monster, propelling itself beyond control. Can we just accuse the social media for intensifying this hate? Some control and restraint is needed, some fact check is necessary for this highly impactful media. What is also needed is that mechanisms like AltNews are made more popular to counter these falsehoods. It is heartening to note that Twitter has decided to suspend seven Crore fake accounts. We also need to ensure that the misconceptions and Hate which is ruling our society, streets need to be countered by message of love. What we need is that truth is propagated and message of peace is made more effective. We have activists like Faisal Khan, who through his Khudai Khidmatagar takes out peace marches. Harsh Mander’s Paigam-E-Mohabbat (Message of peace) has been doing yeomen service by meeting the families of victims of lynching and creating an atmosphere of amity. Mahant from Ayodhya Yugal Kishore Sharan Shastri, through his less advertised peace marches is trying to reach sections of society with a message of tolerance and peace. Such efforts need to be upheld and broadened. These are just few examples of the initiatives in this direction, there are many more which need to be projected to promote and preserve amity in India. Countering Hate and promoting amity became the central message of father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who struggled to promote peace, in the highest traditions of his Hinduism. As the fake news is assuming frightening proportions and is doing serious harm to the concept of fraternity inherent in Indian nationalism, we need to retune ourselves to the core value of amity, which was the foundation of freedom movement and is very much the part of our Constitution.

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