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Tag Archives: Taliban

Rewriting Afghan conflict!

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In yet another rebuke to Pakistan, America has repeated the beaten line: “The US continues to be clear with Pakistan about steps it should take to improve the security environment and deny safe havens to terrorist and extremist groups,” the Pentagon said in its six-monthly report on Afghanistan sent to the Congress on June 17. The US defence secretary Ashton …

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The F-16 and Afghan wars

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F-16 was Pakistan’s weapon of first choice when Soviets walked into Afghanistan in 1979. First tranche of 40 aeroplanes was promptly delivered. Deadly combination of F-16 and Stinger, surface to air, air defence missile broke the will of Soviet-Afghan Air Forces to carry out hot pursuit operations inside Pakistan. Now again F-16 is the best suited aircraft to hit otherwise …

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Afghanistan between war and peace making

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During a meeting between President Mamnoon Hussain and Chief Executive of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah Abdullah, on the side-lines of the OIC summit, mutual commitment to work together to address common challenges was reaffirmed. The President underlined the importance Pakistan attached to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and highlighted the efforts being made for the promotion of the Afghan reconciliation process, including through the Quadrilateral mechanism. Back in Afghanistan fierce offensive around Kunduz began only days after the Taliban group announced its annual spring offensive, vowing to launch large-scale attacks to drive the Western-backed government from power. Imamuddin Qureshi, chief of Kunduz's Imam Saheb district, said several security outposts had already fallen to the Taliban, and he called on the government in Kabul to send reinforcements and air support immediately. Outposts were also overrun in other districts and security forces fled to Kunduz city to regroup, Khanabad district Chief Ayatullah Amiri said. The highway between Kunduz and neighbouring Takhar province also stands blocked. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said fighters had captured outposts in six districts and three bomb blasts had killed seven members of the Afghan security forces just outside Kunduz.Onus to secure any reduction in violence through cease fire(s) rests with the Afghan government through a package of political concessions that could, step by step, induct the Taliban into Afghanistan’s mainstream political structures. Earlier the Afghan government comes out with such a package, better it would be for the peace process. Afghan government is poised to be loser in the battlefield and each combat victory would result in further entrenching by the Taliban. Pakistan has denounced the launch of spring offensive and has announced that it would continue to play a positive role for peace in Afghanistan. But Pakistan is in no position to dictate to Taliban. Thus one has to be cautious while attaching timelines and deadlines or preconditions to the process. Rather, it is more important to keep the process on track and foil the attempts to derail it.

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Afghanistan between mysteries and realities!

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Two suicide attacks one each in Kabul and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan and prompt claiming of responsibility by the Taliban could be another conspiracy to derail the upcoming direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. May be someone else is acting as Taliban. Afghan conflict often throws up events that remain shrouded in mystery.This type of environment is quite intriguing. Afghanistan should have been keen for restoration of peace and tranquillity in the country that has suffered so much and for so long because of turbulence and turmoil triggered by a host of factors. Earlier, Afghanistan and some of its friends in the West had been complaining that peace process was not moving ahead because of lack of required support by Pakistan; however, over the last two years, Pakistan has been making hectic endeavours to help forward movement of peace process. Pakistan’s keenness has been widely acknowledged by the international community. Pakistan is deeply interested in speedy resolution of the Afghan crisis as unending conflict has badly damaged it in different ways including missed economic opportunities, deteriorating security situation and continued presence of millions of Afghan refugees that are adding to the socio-economic problems of the country.

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Evolving dynamics of Afghan conflict

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Last week Afghan forces pulled out of bases in Musa Qala, a strategic district of the southern province of Helmand. The commander of the Afghan army’s 215th Corps, Mohammad Moeen Faqir, said troops had been ordered to pull back from Roshan Tower, their main base in Musa Qala, as well as other checkpoints to reinforce Gereshk, straddling the main highway, one which links Kabul with the south and west. “Now that the government has withdrawn its forces from this district, we will see Kajaki, Gereshk and Sangin collapsing very soon,” said deputy provincial council member Abdul Majid Akhundzada.The outgoing commander of Operation Resolute Support and American troops in Afghanistan, General John F Campbell, paid a farewell call on Army Chief General Raheel Sharif on February 18. Campbell paid rich tributes to the professionalism and phenomenal achievements of Pakistan Army in Operation Zarb-e-Azb. He also acknowledged Pakistan Army’s efforts towards regional stability. General Raheel thanked Campbell in particular for his efforts to bring about stability in Afghanistan! Two generals reviewed the ongoing reconciliation process in Afghanistan and discussed the way forward. Though generals may think that worst of the Afghan conflict is far behind them, from a commoner’s perspectives, Afghanistan faces numerous daunting challenges.

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Axis of Fragility!

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[Featured Picture: Courtesy Pakistan Today]Pakistan’s troubled neighbourhood—both in the east and west present a treacherous playground in terms of diplomacy and peace process. Fist immediate causality was resignation of pro-India head of Afghanistan’s Directorate of National Security— Rahmatullah Nabi— who does not want his country to engage with Pakistan for joint and cooperative effort for solving the problems these two countries face, despite the fact that none of the countries could resolve these issues without the help of other. Likewise, Modi has a compulsion to please his hardline power base—terrorist outfit Shiv Sena—through Pakistan bashing. His anti-Pakistan rhetoric of electoral campaign has turned out as a bone in the throat which is neither easy to swallow nor viable to vomit. Pakistan is poised to tread a difficult path with both these neighbours. Pakistan and India have agreed to restart the dialogue process, Sushma Swaraj disclosed at a joint press conference with Sartaj Aziz: “Instead of composite dialogues now comprehensive dialogues will be held in which all outstanding issues will be discussed”. All eight sectors of the composite dialogue would be part of the comprehensive bilateral dialogue and more things could be added to it. Comprehensive dialogue will include discussions on peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, confidence building measures, the Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, economic and commercial cooperation, counterterrorism, narcotics control and humanitarian issues. It will also address people to people exchanges and religious tourism. Shushma confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Pakistan next year for the SAARC summit expected to be held in coming September. Shushma set out India’s desire for a new trade corridor to be opened into Central Asia through Afghanistan. Indian agreement of a new dialogue with Pakistan reflected an acceptance that Indian ambition of regional trade will never be realized without its better relationship with Pakistan. The new engagement between the two countries has raised hopes of a broader reconciliation.Though substantial gains were made during the event— both in Pakistan-Afghanistan and Pakistan-India context, track record indicates these are not without the likelihood of their quick meltdown on slightest pretext.

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Afghanistan: a rudderless ship!

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China has offered to host a meeting between Afghan government and Taliban, but has declined to mediate. China’s special envoy for Afghanistan Deng Xijun called the Taliban “one of the main forces in Afghanistan’s political arena.” Like Pakistan, China opposes a military solution to the Afghan conflict, and favours intra-Afghan dialogue. “We think dialogue is the only way out for Afghanistan to achieve lasting peace and stability,” Deng said. “We have difficulties and obstacles when we have in such kind of things. We have many problems and challenges ahead but if we sit down, if we talk with each other, then I think the future is bright”, he added. He reassured Pakistan of China’s continued support in addressing common challenges faced by the region. Both Pakistan and China have convergent interests and shared goals with regards to Afghanistan. A report by the ‘US Congressional Research Service’ published in October has revealed that 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; India also wants to prevent militants in Afghanistan from attacking Indian targets in Afghanistan; it wants to prevent Pakistan from regaining “preponderant” influence in present day Afghanistan. Report added that “it (India) does not want to be saddled with the burden of helping secure Afghanistan” after the US departure. It says that Afghanistan also seeks close ties with India because it wants access to India’s large and rapidly growing economy – “but without alarming Pakistan.” Apparently intra-Afghan battles of turf shall gradually come to an end and the peace process shall resume. Peace in Afghanistan is vital for the stability of the entire region. The underlying factor for resumption of Murree process is how long President Ashraf Ghani takes to calibrate the extent and limits of his political outreach with Taliban. Extension in the tenure of foreign forces limits the chances that during next fighting season the Taliban could over run urban centres one after the other; while at the same time, it also limits the Taliban to not to finalize a political deal before at least end 2016, on the pretext of presence of foreign forces. Until then, pot is poised to keep simmering—patterns would will continue jockeying between fighting and talking seasons.

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Nawaz-Obama: Shall the twine meet!

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Before leaving for the US, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had said that he would remind US President Barack Obama of former President Bill Clinton’s promise to play an active role for the resolution of Kashmir dispute. Nawaz Sharif also said that he “wants to bring the Taliban back to the negotiation table.” These two issue are likely to top the agenda in Nawaz-Obama summit. Though laundry list could and would include everything under the sun.In a historic judgement, high court of IHK has declared that Jammu and Kashmir continue to retain limited sovereignty and it did not merge with the Dominion of India after partition in 1947. The court has ruled that the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is “a permanent provision” and “cannot be abrogated, repealed or even amended”. The IHK court’s judgement has shaken the very foundation on which Indians try to justify the forcible occupation of the state.The Taliban insurgents, no longer called as terrorists by Americans, are now spread through more parts of the country than at any point since 2001, according to the recent United Nations estimates. During previous weeks, the Taliban scored their biggest victory of the war, seizing the northern city of Kunduz and holding it for more than two weeks. Incidents of breaking Ghazni Jail, freeing hundreds of militant inmates and later threatening posture toward this urban centre speak for themselves. Earlier unrelenting attacks in and around Kabul had amply demonstrated the expanse of Taliban’s combat activities. And to offset the embarrassment of hitting a hospital in Kunduz, CIA has had an afterthought to implicate their “on call scapegoat”—Pakistan. Associated Press (AP) has carried a story that American special operations analysts believed that the hospital was being used by a Pakistani intelligence operative to coordinate Taliban activity. “Doctors Without Borders” a humanitarian outfit that was running the hospital has denied this. Spokesperson of Pakistan’s foreign office has termed the story by the AP as baseless and unwarranted. Even if the allegations are true, the billion dollars question is: Was bombing the hospital—in a typical cowboy style— the only available option?State Department has issued a fact sheet on its ties with Pakistan, a week before Nawaz-Obama summit, which highlights co-operation between the two countries in various fields. “Pakistan has generally co-operated with the United States in counter-terrorism efforts and since 2001, has captured more than 600 Al Qaeda members and their allies,” says the statement. And that security assistance to Pakistan is focused on “strengthening the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capabilities of the Pakistan security forces”. Through perseverance, Pakistan is bravely charting its way forward through vortices thrown up by assortment of fictions and myths. It wishes to continue its contributions for making South Asia a peaceful and stable region, and it certainly needs a break from an unrelenting fiction based bashing spree. While nothing dramatic is expected out of the summit, there may be substantive decisions on some of the issues. Hopefully, Prime Minister would put forward his point of view firmly when he meets Obama, and would shed his typical apologetic approach while discussing issues related to Afghanistan and India, especially border violations by these two countries and the core issue of Kashmir.

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Counter extremism: Terrorism shall follow the suit

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[Featured Image: Courtesy CNN] On the eve of Haj, Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz said the terrorists have gone astray and are destroying the image of Islam. He cautioned the Muslims about the menace of terrorists using the religion’s name while sabotaging peace. He urged Muslims to strive for spreading the real message of Islam— peace, love and brotherhood. And while addressing the UNGA on September 25, Pope Francis said; “Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective…and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion...including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime….We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges”. This convergence of thought amongst the leadership of two major faiths is a healthy sign. Grand Mufti and Pope have done their bit in this direction, now the global political leadership should pick up the cues and devise a global plan of action for countering terrorism while addressing the core issues of radicalism and extremism. Though terrorism is a global phenomenon, during recent years it has converged more onto Muslim countries, including Pakistan. Menace of terrorism stems out of extremism which in turn draws its origin from radicalism. Therefore, beside terrorism, any meaningful counter terrorism effort should also focus on radicalism and extremism. While the government of Pakistan is striving to counter terrorism, countering extremism and radicalism are the weaker links in the National Action Plan (NAP). NAP evolved from the urgency of countering terrorism and thus has significant relevance in overall security matrix to address the immediate need of connecting different responses and incorporating these in a functional policy framework. However, in the process, actions focused at de-radicalization and counter extremism did not attract requisite focus. It is expected that in due course, government will come up with a comprehensive de-radicalization and counter-extremism strategies as well to complement existing provisions of the NAP.

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Afghanistan’s erratic trajectory

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Afghan government is pressurizing Pakistan through the US, it has persuaded America to suspend the next tranche of Coalition Support Fund(CSF) to Pakistan for not doing enough against Haqqani network. Though formal announcement is likely to take sometime, reportedly the decision has informally been conveyed to Pakistan's embassy in Washington. This would cause a loss of US$ 1.5 billion; the amount has already been budgeted in the current year's budget. CSF is a reimbursement of amount already spent by Pakistan for providing services in connection with American counter terrorism effort. It is unbecoming of an ally to withhold such payments. This would be a setback for Pakistan and Afghanistan would stand absolved of what all it has uttered in the recent past. President Ashraf Ghani’s frustration is understandable, but his approach to resolve the issues is unfortunately getting more and more erratic. More than a decade long Pakistan bashing neither helped Americans nor Ashraf’s predecessor; it is not likely to help him either. Americans have corrected their course, and it would serve Ashraf well, if he follows the suite. Afghan conflict needs a professional handling. President Ashraf Ghani should have done his calculations before signing the Bilateral Security Agreement with America that a very powerful component of Taliban is not likely to compromise on presence of foreign troops on American soil. Despite stern tone in his comments on Pakistan, Ghani failed to come up with something concrete to achieve the desires objectives. Afghan leadership should comprehend that it is an exercise in futility to assume that Pakistan has compelling influence on Taliban. Bad experience of cobbling together a broad based Mujahedeen government in the wake of Soviet withdrawal from Kabul in the 1990s is not a distant memory; and ever since, Afghan insurgent leadership’s psyche has not changed much.

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