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Odd trio: Pakistan-US-Afghanistan

Relationship between Pakistan-US-Afghanistan is of an odd trio. During the NATO summit in Warsaw on July 09, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accused Pakistan of continuing to distinguish between ‘good and bad terrorists’. “Our regional initiatives with our neighbours are beginning to yield significant cooperative dividends … with the exception of Pakistan,” Ghani said. “Pakistan’s dangerous distinction between good and bad terrorists is being maintained in practice,” he claimed. Elaborating the nature of afghan conflict, he said: “it is multi-dimensional, ranging from al Qaeda and Da’ish to terrorist groups with Central Asian, Chinese, and Russian origins, to Pakistani groups classified as terrorists by Pakistan and Afghan Taliban groups.”  Pakistan has expressed disappointment over these remarks. “It is unfortunate that Afghan leaders continue to make hostile statements and blame Pakistan… However, since we have a genuine interest in seeing peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan will continue to make every effort to help…We also expect cooperation of the Afghan government in our fight against terrorism through effective border management and denying sanctuaries to anti-Pakistan terrorists from TTP”, a foreign office statement said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that allies have promised to contribute around $1 billion a year over the next three years in partial funding to Afghan military. “… that’s the reason we are ready to stay beyond 2016,” Stoltenberg said NATO’s mission will continue [training] into 2017 with 12,000 NATO and US troops.

US mission commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, has acknowledged that Afghan forces were suffering rising levels of battlefield casualties this year.  “This year, we’re seeing more tactical success (by the Afghans) on the battlefield but more casualties as well,” Nicholson said. Over 5,000 forces in Afghanistan were killed and more than 14,000 were wounded in 2015. Nicholson praised Afghan forces for being able to recruit new fighters and carry on, despite the casualty rates. President Barack Obama has scrapped plans to slash the number of US forces to 5,500 troops from 9,800 before he leaves office, citing precarious security in Afghanistan. Obama now plans to leave around 8,400 US troops.

Eid message and a formal statement attributed to Taliban leader has reiterated that the deaths of Mullah Omar and Mullah Mansoor had not weakened the insurgency; implying that neither his nor his successor(s) death would weaken it. He urged the US to end Afghan ‘occupation’. “We condemn this effort of prolonging this war and occupation and remind the Americans that the Afghan nation has bravely faced all your might over the past 15 years,” Haibatullah said. “You are not going to be the winner,” he added. “If you [Americans] begin to see Afghanistan as an equal country and recognise the Islamic Emirate as a military, political and peaceful force demanding its legitimate rights and also take into consideration the demands of this valiant nation, you shall be saved from a lot of expenditure and losses,” he stated. Taliban have “kept political doors open to the world”, he added. Haibatullah is incrementally consolidating his position and these articulations indicate that there would be no change in Taliban’s tactical policy under the new leader.

Attempt by the Afghan government to veer away Hizb-e-Islami (HI) has entered an interesting phase. HI has pledged not to attack Afghan soldiers except in self-defence. However, as under the new arrangement, American and Afghan troops are likely to carry out more and more joint operations, offer by HI may not result in significant reduction in violence.

Pervious weeks have witnessed some unilateral American actions which poured chilled water on the Pakistan-US relations. Droning of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in an otherwise no go area for drones; scuttling of sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan under Indian pressure; conditioning the inflow of US$ 300 with action against Haqqanis; and audacious effort to make India an NSG member while out rightly blocking Pakistan’s entry had sufficient cumulative impact to make some analysts jump to conclusion that Pakistan-US relationship were in for a replication of 1990s era. Pakistan’s resistance and reaction to these American actions to contain Pakistan successfully sent back the message that Pakistan could revert back to alternative options.

Delegation level visit of US Senators Lindsey Graham, Benjamin Sasse, Joe Donnelly and John McCain, Chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee to Pakistan was a fence-mending effort. Delegation visited Afghanistan as well. Gaps between John McCain’s articulation in Islamabad and Kabul were interesting.  After “excellent meeting” with Pakistani foreign ministry officials, he  told the Afghan Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul on July 04 that he had pushed the Pakistani leaders to take practical steps against Haqqani Network. “The US forces and the country will continue to support the Afghans until the end of war,” senator McCain said.

While in Pakistan, Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had briefed the US delegation about faltering peace talks to end the civil war in Afghanistan. “No country had as much vital stakes in the success of these joint efforts, as Pakistan”. Adviser recounted Pakistan’s earnest efforts, particularly during the past few months, to keep the Pakistan-US partnership on track. Delegation was also on briefed the vital issues of: Pak-Afghan border management; repatriation of Afghan refugees; and Afghan peace and reconciliation process. It was reiterated that Pakistan remains committed to the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) process.

McCain is known for keeping his feet in both boats when it comes to Pakistan-India relations. Earlier in a reaction to the US government’s approval of sale of eight F-16 to Pakistan McCain had urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on February 26, to hold a hearing on this sale. He opined that a hearing would help senators decide what to do about the proposed sale, noting that he was himself very “conflicted.” McCain was concerned about the timing of the Obama administration’s decision to approve the sale and potential consequences for US relations with India! “I would rather have seen it kicked over into the next administration,” McCain said.

The government approval of deal drew immediate criticism from India; and Pentagon aptly responded: “F-16 sale to Pakistan should not be of concern to India”. However, the spoiler action followed soon after. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker allowed the Obama administration to proceed with the deal, but said he would not approve using US funds to pay for the planes through the foreign military financing programme. Corker told Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter that he was concerned about Pakistan’s ties to the Haqqani network. Crocker did it, apparently single handily and the deal was scuttled. He had exploited Pakistan’s economic vulnerability of being unable to pay the full cost. It is hard to digest that one odd cranky senator could halt the mighty wheels of the Pentagon and State Department. There must be more to it.

Senators visited Pakistan in the backdrop of scepticism in certain US quarters that Islamabad was reluctant to go after all militant groups, particularly the Haqqani network, which is blamed for most deadliest attacks against US forces in Afghanistan. To dispel this impression Pakistan, for the first time, took these visitors to North Waziristan to get a first-hand account of its efforts. “I was very impressed with the progress,” said McCain. “I see us working together in confronting a common challenge and these kinds of meetings are very helpful”, McCain added.

Senators recognized the need for greater contact between Pakistan and the US and to work together to address the challenges. Common problem with such delegations is that they come with a fixated mind-set, do a good talk, disregard what Pakistani side tells them and go back with the same mind-set they came with. The relationship between the trio is complex, fast- moving, fragile and gains made during one day often go down the drain the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kashmir Martyrs’ Day – July 13th

Post from Washington: Statement by World Kashmir Awareness Forum Washington, D.C. July 13h, 2018. “It was on July 13, 1931, that the foreign occupying Dogra troops shot dead 22 Kashmiris, in cold blood, in front of Srinagar Central Jail. Since that ominous day, Kashmiris have organized peaceful protests, seminars and conferences throughout the world. The people of Kashmir observe the Martyrs Day to reaffirm their resolve to continue their struggle for self-determination and pay homage to the 100,000 innocent men, women and children killed brutally within the past 29 years. In Srinagar, a massive march will take place towards the martyrs’ graveyard at Naqashband Sahib. This march has been approved by Joint Resistance Leadership – Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik. We clearly and unequivocally call for all Kashmiris to continue to increase their solidarity at this critical juncture. As we know that Indian impotence, willful ignorance and desperation to avoid a meaningful peace process and initiate wimpy attempts to pacify Kashmiri passion will fail miserably,” stated Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum (WKAF). Fai emphasized that the Kashmiri people’s resolve and continued commitment to peaceful protest is principled on the ongoing massive violations of their human rights, and the Indian Government’s atrocious dismissal of their aspirations for self-determination. Amnesty International (AI) report, for India (2017-2018) says, “Impunity for human rights abuses (in Jammu and Kashmir) persisted. ..Security forces continued to use inherently inaccurate pellet-firing shotguns during protests, blinding and injuring several people. Authorities frequently shut down internet services, citing public order concerns.” In that regard, the recent report issued by the United Nations on June 14, 2018 on the situation in Kashmir, is congratulatory. The report underscored that “Impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.” And that “Impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances in Kashmir continues as there has been little movement towards credibly investigating complaints including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region.” The people of Kashmir clearly have little faith in or respect for the so-called Indian democracy, and India hasn’t the slightest idea how to earn it. It’s solution to the anger of people crying for freedom and a respite, at the very least, from the terror of 700,000 troops, is to clamp down even harder, adding to the death toll of such a policy that now approaches the six-figure range. The desire for self-determination is the one very big “element” India should be concerned about, yet continues to pretend to the world that it does not exist. However long India refuses to acknowledge it, the decades-old movement in Kashmir will not simply die out. Even the latest United Nations report recommends to the Government of India to, “ “Fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law.” Fai discounted the United Nations hopes that the Kashmir dispute could be settled through bilateral talks between India and Pakistan. He recounted the litany of failed bilateral efforts and said that the people of Kashmir have steadfastly maintained that tripartite talks between the Governments of India & Pakistan and the legitimate leadership of the people of Kashmir, are the only way to resolve the Kashmir issue. We appeal to the world powers to recognize the long-standing wishes and aspirations of the Kashmiri people as they observe Martyrs Day, July 13th. And we hope that the world powers will realize that what is at stake in the dispute is not only the survival of the people of Kashmir but also the peace and stability in the region of South Asia.

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