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Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Trump’s new found love for Pakistan

Now the US president has adopted a formal, diplomatic way of approaching its frontline partner in the terror war, instead of making use of the crude oratory that he is best at. Trump’s letter indicates that now there is a realization within the US administration that Pakistan’s co-operation is vital to ensuring peace in Afghanistan. Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari demolished Khalilzad for his hawkish approach towards Islamabad by advising him to bring a “less arrogant and hostile mind set” during his visit to Islamabad. She credited Imran Khan for promptly responding to Trump’s Twitter tirade. She claimed that premier’s reply had ‘compelled Trump to do a reality check’. “So much for those in Pakistan who were quivering after Imran Khan’s tweets,” she added.Pakistan has suffered more than 75,000 casualties in the war on terrorism as it had agreed to cooperate with the US in that effort, even though “no Pakistani was involved” in the 9/11 attacks. Instead of “making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures,” the United States should undertake a “serious assessment” of why, after a war involving hundreds of thousands of NATO and Afghan troops and more than $1 trillion in costs, the Taliban today are stronger than ever before. Since Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan, the US decision is welcomed,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith. Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility,” statement added. If current phase of diplomacy between the US and Pakistan is steered well, it could help ease tension between Washington and Islamabad; and bring peace to Afghanistan.

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Moscow Format: New entry to knotty peace processes

Afghanistan rivals failed to reach a breakthrough on holding direct peace negotiations during international talks in Moscow, the latest international effort to end the conflict. Russia had invited representatives from the United States as well as India, Iran, China and Central Asian Republics; all hailed the Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan as an opportunity to “open a new page” in …

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Pakistan asks America to keep its troops in Afghanistan till stability

In a clear departure from its earlier position, Pakistan has cautioned against the US forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan without first achieving the complete peace and security in the country. “Pakistan has been reiterating that the US forces should stay in Afghanistan till the achievement of complete peace and stability,” Foreign office spokesperson said at the weekly briefing on October 18. “I would like to draw your attention to the chaos in the aftermath of the withdrawal of USSR [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] in the late 1980s. The region cannot afford anything similar, at this time,” he added. Provincial governor, Police and Intelligence chiefs were assassinated in an attack in Kandahar province while the top American commander in Afghanistan General Austin Miller narrowly escaped. Probably, it was an inside job. Over thirty percent polling stations are not likely to open due to violence during October 20 parliamentary polls. Afghanistan is undoubtedly in a chaos, and Pakistan's concerns about post US pullout are not unfounded. May be Pakistan is anticipating a sudden pullout by President Trump. Whatever, the people of Pakistan need to be taken into confidence over this change of stance.

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Contemporary INGOs: Hegemonic Proxies

When governments abdicate their basic responsibilities towards their people in terms of disaster management, healthcare, education, nutrition etc, the void is filled by NGOs and INGOs, and then host country has to bend backward to accommodate these entities. Hence, it is necessary that beside scrutinizing the INGOs, government of Pakistan takes essential steps to fill the capacity gaps in disaster management, health, education, social security etc.Modern warfare is characterized by calculated ambiguity, controlled chaos and perplexing complexity. It is envisaged that the future hybrid conflict in the region shall be fought by the foreign sponsored non-state actors and inserted proxies under the overall goal of influence operations so as to achieving the strategic end state rather than conventional military to military conflicts. It is no secret that some International Non-government organisations (INGOs) harbour foreign agents working against the interests of the host country with or without the knowledge or complicity of their parent organisation. Such INGOs provide an excellent cover for clandestine activity by hostile foreign agencies such as intelligence-gathering and subversion in the country in which they operate. International organizations and selected NGOs offer diversity of means available for international coercion. Non state actors will continue to play an important role in the future. Due to the technological advancement and globalization, a number of non-state actors and groups, transnational networks and even think tanks have influence against nation states or certain parts of it. Pakistan has asked 18 (INGOs) to wind up their operations within 60 days. During surveillance of these INGOs, it was revealed that they were involved in suspicious activities. They were doing things which were beyond their given mandate. Certain foreign funded organisations which were conducting surveys, were routinely sharing their data with hostile agencies. Some of the INGOs were also operating near sensitive installations.So far 145 INGOs have applied for registration. During scrutiny it was revealed that 63 INGOs are working against Pakistan’s security and solidarity. Ministry of Interior served notices to 49 INGOs (in November 2017 and August 2018) for closing their operation in the country; out of these, 18 filed representation against the decision and they were given ample opportunity to clear their position. Their appeals were unanimously regretted by a special committee constituted for the said purpose. Forty INGOs have not even bothered to get themselves registered and they continue to, work. Legal action against such INGOs is being contemplated.

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Is the new push for Afghan peace genuine?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an unannounced visit to Kabul on July 09 that there was “now hope” for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. “An element of the progress is the capacity that we now have to believe that there is now hope,” Pompeo told a press conference. “Many of the Taliban now see that they can’t win on the ground militarily. That’s very deeply connected to President Trump’s strategy… Make no mistake, there’s still a great deal of work to do”, he added. However, recent BBC study reveals that Taliban are openly active in 70 per cent of Afghanistan; Afghan government controls 122 districts, or about 30 per cent of the country. Yet, it does not mean that government controlled territories are free from Taliban attacks. “Kabul and other major cities, for example, suffered major attacks – launched from adjacent areas, or by sleeper cells,” the report said. When asked about the BBC’s study, the Pentagon did not comment directly, but pointed to the latest figures by the NATO-led coalition, asserting that about 56 per cent of Afghanistan’s territory was under Afghan government control or influence. The study quoted a spokesperson for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani playing down the findings. The BBC study also said Islamic State had a presence in 30 districts, but noted it did not fully control any of them. Earlier Taliban had refused the government’s request to extend their three-day Eid ceasefire, launching fresh attacks that have seen scores killed or injured. Resurgence of insider attacks after almost a year’s gap also belies Pompeo’s claims. President Ashraf Ghani thanked Pompeo for US support, hailing Trump’s strategy as a “game changer” in the conflict. Pompeo said while the United States would have an “important” role in peace talks, the process must be Afghan-led. Taliban’s key demands for engaging in talks has been the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, but observers say they now appear amenable to a timetable for their pull-out. However, Taliban have rejected the latest peace talks offer. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Taliban “are not interested in talks while foreign troops are still on Afghan soil.” Mujahid also repeated long-standing Taliban claims that Afghan government officials are “puppets. Renewed violence and the Taliban’s recent vow to continue their fight has dampened hopes that the truce would provide a clear path to peace talks. Ambassador Alice G Wells, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, visits Islamabad [and Kabul] so frequently that Pakistan’s foreign office might be thinking of offering her complimentary accommodation for setting up Islamabad camp office! Beyond routines Wells has a special assignment: to hold Taliban by their throat and present them to President Ashraf Ghani, as soon as possible. Ghani already has an America dictated power sharing draft agreement in his pocket. And American support for granting him blanket clearance for rigging his second term election is contingent upon making reasonable performance on this track. Both Afghanistan and the US want to reach some kind of deal with the Taliban before the parliamentary elections due later this year. Hence Wells’ urgency! Arduous challenge for Alice is that Taliban insist on talking directly to the US, as they think that present status of Afghanistan is of a country under American occupation. So they want to engage with the power that be—ostensibly, logical thinking. With focus on Taliban, Wells is putting in strenuous effort to steer the Pak-US relationship clear of mines laid by President Donal Trump. During her latest visit, she reiterated that Pak-US relationship is important and the US would like to carry it forward. Despite Trump sown hiccups, these bilateral relations are still presenting a functional façade. Pakistan is confident that Taliban could be brought to the negotiating table after the success of recent short ceasefire on Eid. However, it feels that bringing Taliban to negotiating point is not the sole responsibility of Pakistan, but is a shared errand. In a parallel development, during several rounds of discussions between Pakistani and Afghan officials, both sides have worked out a roadmap on how to invite Taliban to join the political process. Afghan President has confirmed that Pakistan and Afghanistan have made considerable progress on how to achieve peace in Afghanistan. This however does not match ground realities. Against this backdrop, Wells’ recent visit to Kabul and Islamabad was significant. While in Kabul, she stated that American leadership desires decisive moves in the peace talks. Wells said there was widespread support for peace, underlined by scenes of unarmed fighters mingling with government troops and civilians on the streets of Afghan cities during Eid festival. Wells said that Taliban’s failure to engage in talks to end Afghanistan’s nearly 17-year old conflict was ‘unacceptable’: “I think it creates this impulse for everyone to renew their efforts to find a negotiated political solution. “Increasingly I think it’s becoming simply unacceptable for the Taliban not to negotiate”— a wishful assumption. Taliban soon responded by multiple attacks killing scores of people in Jalalabad and elsewhere. Wells also called on Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Views were exchanged on issues of mutual interest, regional security and cooperation between both the countries, the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement. She “commended the sacrifices and resilience of the people and armed forces of Pakistan and appreciated the role Pakistan Army has played in battling the scourge of terrorism”. Both agreed on continued engagement at multiple levels. Trump has suspended military and civil sector aid to Pakistan since the beginning of this year alongside holding back the already paid for military hardware. America is also defaulting on arears of Coalition Support Fund, amount that America owes to Pakistan that latter has already spent on account of logistical services provided to the US. Finance Minister, Dr Shamshad Akhtar also held a meeting with Wells. They discussed the current state of Pak-US relations with particular focus on economic cooperation. Finance Minister said that such bilateral visits enhance understanding of each other’s point of view on important issues. The Minister also briefed Alice Wells about Pakistan’s participation in the recently concluded FATF meeting. America had gone out of the way to have Pakistan placed on FATF grey list to the extent of circumventing the FTAF operating procedures. Wells said that since the Afghan government and United States were willing to start talking without preconditions, the onus was now on the Taliban to respond— once again logic stands on its head. “Right now it’s the Taliban leaders… who aren’t residing in Afghanistan, who are the obstacle to a negotiated political settlement,” Wells said. She forgot to account for those Taliban controlling over 70 percent of Afghan territories. Previous meaningful peace initiatives were deliberately scuttled by the US, one has to see how the current one proceeds! Only the forward movement of peace process will reflect on America’s sincerity of purpose, which is hard to discern—at least for now.

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Jumpy Tweets of Bumpy Trump

bumpy trump and jumpy tweets

Our dear Trump, “the most genius and most stable”, may be trying to cut the trunk of the tree on which successive American administration have been investing heavily. Richard G. Olson, former US ambassador to Pakistan and former special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in his opinion piece, “How Not to Engage with Pakistan”, for the New York Times on January 09, aptly commented: “While perhaps it is emotionally satisfying to penalize a country that has supported American enemies in Afghanistan for the past 16 years, the administration’s approach is unlikely to work…The harsh truth is that American leverage over Rawalpindi and Islamabad has been declining… Thus, the Trump administration’s attempt at humiliating and penalizing Pakistan is unlikely to work. Pakistan, like most countries, reacts very badly to public attempts to force its hand. It is likely to respond by showing how it can truly undercut our position in Afghanistan….” Any listeners in the US? Probably none, at least for the time being. Through a series of major counter-terrorism operations, Pakistan has cleared all these areas resulting in elimination of organized terrorist presence leading to significant improvement in security situation in Pakistan. Pakistan’s peace efforts are awaiting reciprocal actions from the Afghan side in terms of clearance of vast stretches of ungoverned spaces on the Afghan side, bilateral border management, repatriation of Afghan refugees, controlling poppy cultivation, drug trafficking and initiating Afghan led and owned political reconciliation in Afghanistan.

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How Not to Engage With Pakistan

How Not to Engage With Pakistan

by Richard G. Olson [Courtesy The New York Times] President Trump’s decision last week to suspend almost all security aid to Pakistan, which quickly followed his accusation that Pakistan had “given us nothing but lies and deceit,” suggests that his administration is carrying out the hard-line approach that the president foreshadowed in August.The harsh truth is that American leverage over Rawalpindi and Islamabad has been declining. And as United States aid levels have diminished — reflecting bipartisan unhappiness with Pakistani policy — aid from the Chinese has increased. China has invested around $62 billion in Pakistani infrastructure under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an element of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Its magnitude and its transformation of parts of Pakistan dwarf anything the United States has ever undertaken.Thus, the Trump administration’s attempt at humiliating and penalizing Pakistan is unlikely to work. Pakistan, like most countries, reacts very badly to public attempts to force its hand. It is likely to respond by showing how it can truly undercut our position in Afghanistan.

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Drivers of instability in South Asia

Drivers of instability in South Asia

South Asia is an instable region; two major drivers of this situation are hegemonic designs of Indian leadership, and continued occupation of Afghanistan by the United States. Other contributory factors are inter-state territorial and resource distribution claims amongst the constituent states. With simultaneous rise of ultra-right nationalist leadership in the US and India, both leaderships have found a common ground in operationalizing Machiavellian tactics by perpetuating instability in select hotspots. This convergence of interest is resulting in prolonging the hardship of Kashmiri and Afghan people. Impeding development projects of Pakistan is another facet of Indian strategy, while the US is ganging up South China sea and East China sea littorals to bog down China in its own proximity. Then, there is second ring having heavy weights like japan, India and Australia to blunt Chinese growth. Pakistan is paying a high price for instability in Afghanistan. Presence of terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan is an established reality. Latest report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) confirms that more than 43 percent of Afghan territory is not under the control of the Afghan Government. This is alarming as it provides opportunity for all kinds of terrorist groups to use these as sanctuaries. Pakistan wishes to have friendly relations with all its neighbors. Pakistan, as a responsible member of the international community believes in peace and strategic stability—in South Asia and beyond.

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Out of the frying pan into the fire!

Out of the frying pan into the fire!

When a journalist asked Tillerson if it would be accurate to say that he received a message of defiance from the Pakistanis who told him, “We will not be coerced”. “That would be a complete mischaracterisation of the meeting,” replied Tillerson, alongside affirming that he told Pakistan that Washington would implement its new strategy with or without Islamabad because “this is what we think is necessary. And if you don’t want to do that, don’t feel you can do it, we’ll adjust our tactics and our strategies to achieve the same objective a different way”. So, even though the Pka-US relationship may have receded a bit from the brink, it is likely to remain troublesome. Current America thinking is that through a reinforced military option, it could subdue the Taliban, and the Taliban also think that their war is winnable through more and more application of military power. Hence, at least for now, there is no desire from either side to take a route of political process leading to peace. Earlier this month, CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaking at a security conference at the University of Texas vowed to make the CIA more vicious and unleash it against the Taliban. Reports on the kill and hunt programme approved by the Trump administration, and Pompeo’s comments, reveal true US strategy for Afghanistan. Likes of Tillerson are just side kick in this affair. Both combatants are following the strategy of military victory, rest is eyewash, be it QCG or else. Like in other foreign policy domains, Trump has been a disappointment in Afghanistan as well. The US foreign policy is increasingly becoming victim of its historic prejudices.

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Receding American leverage over Pakistan

Pakistan Focus

While the American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in session with Pakistani civil and military leadership, Senate was castigating his remarks in Kabul. Tillerson’s recent statement in which he had warned Pakistan to move against the Taliban and other groups inside the country “or face consequences”, did not go down well with the Senate. Chairman Raza Rabbani aptly remarked that the tone and tenor of Tillerson was not acceptable to Parliament of Pakistan. “He is acting like a viceroy.” A day earlier, while speaking at a press conference in Kabul, on October 23, Tillerson had said that during his visit to Islamabad he would reinforce Trump administration’s demand to move against the Taliban and other extremists based inside its borders or face the consequences. While American actions are eroding ts leverage over Pakistan, America continues to pose as if it is enhancing. This dichotomy is breeding confusions at policy and functional level. How do we interpret such confusing statements of American leadership? For this we may refer to Iranian supreme leader’s October 19 remarks: “[Trump] pretends to be an idiot, but we should not let our guard down”.

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