Showing posts with label AfPak. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AfPak. Show all posts

20 January 2019

US demand for long-term military bases in Afghanistan sticking point in peace talks: Report


ISLAMABAD: The US' demand for maintaining long-term military bases in Afghanistan has emerged as a sticking point in talks with the Taliban to end the 17-year-long war in the country, according to a media report here.

The report came as the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, stepped up efforts to bring the Taliban to negotiations, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Russia and Iran involved in discussions with the Taliban over the past few months.

The Express Tribune reported quoting officials that the US in return of its demand would provide substantial financial assistance for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan in the post-peace deal.

Although the Taliban have repeatedly demanded complete withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan, they showed an inclination to discuss the suggestion of the US maintaining certain bases in the recent negotiations held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Pakistan wriggles out of IMF clutches


The visit by Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid A Al-Falih on Saturday to Gwadar to inspect the site allocated for a multibillion oil refinery in the port city suggest that Riyadh and Islamabad are giving the final touch to reaching agreement for a Saudi Aramco Oil Refinery in Pakistan. Reports say that Saudi Arabia will be investing $10 billion in the proposed project.

Without doubt, this is a major development in the region. The Saudi-Pakistan relationship, which has been traditionally close and fraternal, is moving on to a new level of dynamism. The Saudi investment decision can be taken as signifying a vote of confidence in the Pakistani economy as well as in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s leadership. It comes on top of the $6 billion package that Saudi Arabia had pledged last year (which included help to finance crude imports) to help Pakistan tide over the current economic difficulties.

PAKISTAN’S CONSOLIDATING CONVENTIONAL DETERRENCE: AN ASSESSMENT

Maimuna Ashraf

Before the overt nuclearization of South Asia in 1998, three major wars between India and Pakistan highlighted the latter’s struggle to bridge the conventional imbalance. During this time, Pakistan’s latent nuclear capability provided an effective deterrent, which served to offset the conventional and nuclear threats from India. However, twenty years since India’s entrance into the nuclear club, followed by Pakistan, conventional deterrence remains integral to the maintenance of strategic stability in South Asia. In view of these developments, this article aims to analyze Pakistan’s strategic direction since the nuclear tests, particularly in terms of its conventional military capabilities.

The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan: Getting History Right

By Seth G. Jones

In discussing the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan at a cabinet meeting on January 2, 2019, President Donald Trump drew a parallel between the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. “The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia,” he said. “They were right to be there.” President Trump went on to say that the war in Afghanistan helped trigger the collapse of the Soviet Union. “The problem is it was a tough fight,” he said. “And literally, they went bankrupt. They went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union.” The public outcry was immediate and animated. In an editorial titled “Trump’s Cracked Afghan History,” the Wall Street Journal responded caustically: “Right to be there? We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President … The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a defining event in the Cold War, making clear to all serious people the reality of the communist Kremlin’s threat.”

Don’t Repeat the Mistakes of Iraq: U.S. Should Continue Training Mission in Afghanistan

 by Luke Coffey 

There have been recent reports that the U.S. might pull out around 7,000 U.S. troops—half of the total—from Afghanistan. A capable Afghanistan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) and a genuine political settlement with the Taliban, led by the Afghans, is the country’s best ticket to rise from poverty, and America’s best hope for regional stability and security. It is in America’s interest to continue the training, advising, and assisting mission for the ANDSF. Now is not the time to abandon the Afghans and repeat the mistakes of the Obama Administration when it abruptly removed all trainers from Iraq in 2011, paving the way for the invasion by the Islamic State.

Key Takeaways

Why the Afghan Taliban Are Ready to Talk

By Umair Jamal

It has been reported that U.S. President Donald J. Trump is considering withdrawing a significant number of troops from Afghanistan. Reportedly, Trump has directed the Pentagon to withdraw almost half of the more than 14,000 U.S. troops stationed in the country. While Trump’s sudden desire to withdraw has taken many by surprise, Afghanistan’s neighboring states are flocking to talk to the Afghan Taliban as the insurgent group appears to have gained more weight over the question of who controls the peace process in the country.

It remains unclear whether Trump’s withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is part of Washington’s wider policy for the country. What remains clear is this: the suggestion to withdraw troops has created a new situation that is apparently guiding policies in various capitals in Afghanistan’s neighborhood. Regardless of whether American troops leave in a month or in a year, Afghanistan’s neighbors are making plans to prepare for what comes next after the withdrawal.

19 January 2019

Trump Is Right to Seek an End to America’s Wars

By Jon Finer and Robert Malley

There is no shortage of policies and decisions made by President Trump worth criticizing, but since the earliest days of his presidential campaign, he has expressed at least one belief that deserves to be encouraged, not denigrated: the desire to disentangle the United States from costly overseas conflicts.

Mr. Trump’s noninterventionist impulse has always fit uncomfortably with the team he assembled, particularly the latest, more hawkish iteration in his ever-shifting foreign policy cast. For a time, the President grudgingly deferred, allowing conflicts to escalate in virtually every theater he inherited.

Recently, the president’s preferences seemed to prevail, at least momentarily, as he tweeted his decision to withdraw 2,000 American troops from Syria and suggested he would do the same with as many as 7,000 from Afghanistan.

Ringside Perspectives


In his foreword, Anatole Lieven, author of Pakistan: A Hard Country (Penguin, London, 2011), aptly describes General Durrani’s book as a ‘combination of memoirs and reflections’ by ‘Pakistan’s foremost military intellectual’, which he finds ‘enlightening, necessary but in many ways depressing.’

Asad Durrani was Director General, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) between August 1990-March 1992. Before then, he had been Director General, Military Intelligence (DGMI) for two years. He was brought into that post by the then Army Chief, Gen. Aslam Beg, shortly after Zia ul Haq’s death in the fateful air crash of August 1988, in which several other top Pakistani Generals and the American Ambassador to Pakistan were killed. After his ISI tenure, Durrani moved to a staff assignment in the Training and Evaluation Directorate. Thereafter, he was Commandant, National Defence College. He was abruptly retired compulsorily in May, 1993, three years before tenure, because he was found to be ‘dabbling in politics’. He never commanded a Corps, considered an acme of achievement for three star Generals in the Pakistan Army.

Pakistan's India Policy


On 21 December 2018, IPCS hosted Dr Moeed Yusuf, Associate Vice President of the Asia Centre at the US Institute of Peace (USIP) for a round-table discussion on Pakistan's India Policy. 

The discussion explored Pakistan’s foreign policy, politics and internal dynamics, involvement of third parties in the India-Pakistan equation, and the potential window of opportunity that is available for India and Pakistan to recalibrate bilateral ties.

A shift in trend since the 2013 general elections in Pakistan is noticeable: the country has moved from its so-called 'India obsession' to India being sidelined even as an election issue.

Pakistani youth have now actively started questioning the establishment on policy matters, and surveys show that the India factor as a point of obsession is missing in the younger generation. Greater cross-border physical mobility and freedom can be helpful in addressing whatever gaps in perception still remain. However, these positive domestic trends do not suggest that the bilateral relationship is on the mend or that there is a paradigm shift in Pakistan's political structure and policies with regard to India. 

Agonizing Over Afghanistan

Richard N. Haass

NEW YORK – After more than 17 years, the time has come to accept two important truths about the war in Afghanistan. The first is that there will be no military victory by the government and its American and NATO partners. Afghan forces, while better than they were, are not good enough and are unlikely ever to be capable of defeating the Taliban. This is not simply because government troops lack the unity and often the professionalism to prevail, but also because the Taliban are highly motivated and enjoy considerable backing at home and from Pakistan, which provides it critical support and sanctuary.

The second truth is that peace negotiations are unlikely to work. Talks have taken place on and off over the years, but diplomacy is never far removed from facts and trends on the ground. Both work against a negotiated settlement.

Taliban Suicide Bomber Kills 4, Wounds Over 100 in Kabul

By Rahim Faiez

A Taliban suicide bomber killed at least four people and wounded scores when he detonated an explosive-laden vehicle late in the evening in the Afghan capital, officials said Tuesday.

It was the latest in a relentless wave of near daily attacks by the Taliban, who now either directly control or are contesting about half of the country. The violence comes despite stepped up efforts by the United States to find a negotiated end to the country’s 17-year war.

Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said as many as 113 wounded were taken to different hospitals in Kabul after the Monday evening explosion near the Green Village compound, home to several international organizations and guesthouses.

18 January 2019

Pakistan’s army is to blame for the poverty of the country’s 208m citizens


It has for so long been a country of such unmet potential that the scale of Pakistan’s dereliction towards its people is easily forgotten. Yet on every measure of progress, Pakistanis fare atrociously. More than 20m children are deprived of school. Less than 30% of women are employed. Exports have grown at a fifth of the rate in Bangladesh and India over the past 20 years. And now the ambitions of the new government under Imran Khan, who at least acknowledges his country’s problems (see Briefing), are thwarted by a balance-of-payments crisis. If Mr Khan gets an imf bail-out, it will be Pakistan’s 22nd. The persistence of poverty and maladministration, and the instability they foster, is a disaster for the world’s sixth-most-populous country. Thanks to its nuclear weapons and plentiful religious zealots, it poses a danger for the world, too.

Afghanistan after Mattis: A revised strategy to focus on counterterrorism and the Afghan Security Forces

Michael E. O’Hanlon

The center of gravity in the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan should be modified. The focus should not be on nation-building writ large. Nor should it be on helping the Afghan government extend its control over more of the country’s territory—a desirable, but nonessential, objective. Rather, the emphasis should be squarely on making the Afghan security forces more resilient and capable. Doing so will likely keep the country’s cities and main roads in government hands, allowing the United States to preserve counterterrorism capacities in South Asia for the long haul.

This goal would be more readily achieved by keeping U.S. force totals near their current 14,000 troop level for some time to come. But it can also be attempted, with reasonable prospects, at smaller deployment figures if necessary, given President Trump’s potential interest in reducing the American military presence in Afghanistan by perhaps a quarter to half soon. To pursue these objectives, Washington should support Afghan policies like the following:

Afghanistan After Mattis: A Revised Strategy to Focus on Counterterrorism and the Afghan Security Forces

by Michael E. O’Hanlon

The center of gravity in the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan should be modified. The focus should not be on nation-building writ large. Nor should it be on helping the Afghan government extend its control over more of the country’s territory—a desirable, but nonessential, objective. Rather, the emphasis should be squarely on making the Afghan security forces more resilient and capable. Doing so will likely keep the country’s cities and main roads in government hands, allowing the United States to preserve counterterrorism capacities in South Asia for the long haul.

This goal would be more readily achieved by keeping U.S. force totals near their current 14,000 troop level for some time to come. But it can also be attempted, with reasonable prospects, at smaller deployment figures if necessary, given President Trump’s potential interest in reducing the American military presence in Afghanistan by perhaps a quarter to half soon. To pursue these objectives, Washington should support Afghan policies like the following…

17 January 2019

NATO does not want India at Afghanistan peace talks table

NAYANIMA BASU

India has prominent place, but there are hundreds who have stake there, says NATO.

New Delhi: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has denied that India plays a crucial role in the Afghanistan peace and reconciliation process, and instead believes that Pakistan has the “most important role”, along with the US, in establishing truce with the Taliban.

Alejandro Alvargonzález, Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, NATO, told ThePrint that the peace process is led by the Afghanistan government where the US is “playing a crucial role” along with Pakistan, but India cannot be party to those talks just because Pakistan is a player in it.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: A PRECARIOUS YEAR FOR AFGHANISTAN

by Soraya Parwani

The United Nations Strategic Review of 2017 reclassified Afghanistan from a post-conflict state to an active conflict state. As we enter 2019, the conflict not only remains active, but rather it is worsening. In the past year, there have been an additional 550,000 civilians displaced and 3.3 million people pushed past emergency levels of food insecurity. Another 6.3 million people need some form of humanitarian and protection assistance. The battlefield has been less favorable to the Afghan forces who have already absorbed 46,000 casualties. Continuing into 2019, the weakening security situation, political stalemate, and tense ties between the United States and Afghanistan’s regional neighbors will act as stumbling blocks to any attempts to bring an end to the conflict.

‘The Taliban Made Me Fight’: What to Do With Child Recruits After They Serve Time?

By Rod Nordland

‘The Taliban Made Me Fight’: What to Do With Child Recruits After They Serve Time? 

KABUL, Afghanistan — The 14-year-old boy squatted on his haunches on the floor of the prison and, unbidden, began to chant the verses of a Pashto poem in a high, beautiful voice. It was an a cappella elegy in which a prisoner implores his family not to visit him on the Muslim holiday of Eid.

And do not come to us for Eid, for we are not free to welcome you.

I don’t want you to look at my chest, for there are no buttons on my shirt.

Don’t come to this asylum, for we are all lunatics in here.

If US troops exit Kabul, and the Taliban holds sway, Pakistan could unleash ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ against India

VIKRAM SOOD

We could soon see America leave Afghanistan's brutal war half-finished. The implications of this will be dreadful for ordinary Afghans. This is no good news for India either.

Nearly forty years ago, on Christmas Day in 1979, Soviet tanks and troops were airlifted into Kabul — in what became a bloody battle between ‘godless’ Communists on one side, and Islamic mujahedeen backed by the West, Pakistan, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia on the other.

If the 1980s were the years of what ultimately came to be known as the Afghan jihad, the 1990s were the years of civil war, with the Taliban triumphant in Kabul.

The 21st century has seen the results of an unending US-led ‘Global War on Terror’, located in Afghanistan, among other Muslim countries. The Afghans were punished for their location — while Pakistan rewarded for its. This also makes it the longest war that any country has faced in modern times.

Rules of engagement

 By Mandira Nayar

THE LAST TIME Indian representatives sat across a table with the Taliban was in the bleak winter of 1999, at the spartan airport lounge in a snow-filled Kandahar. External affairs minister Jaswant Singh had escorted three Pakistan-backed Kashmiri terrorists, including the dreaded Masood Azhar who would later found the Jaish-e-Mohammad, to be exchanged for 100-odd passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC 814. The Taliban regime in Kabul was purportedly playing the honest umpire, but everyone knew who they were actually putting on the act for.

Singh described his decision to escort the terrorists as one of the most “emotionally draining’’ ones in his life. There are no pictures of that shameful flight, or of that meeting in Kandahar.

Pakistan’s invisible forces tighten grip on power

By IMAD ZAFAR 

After fracturing Nawaz Sharif‘s mandate and injuring him politically, the invisible forces are now busy tightening the noose on the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Asif Ali Zardari, and his aides.

Because of the way things were designed, it was not difficult to understand that sooner or later the Zardari-led PPP would face the music soon. The new doctrine of the military establishment revolves around the correction of the political structure in Pakistan, and in order to do so, it is thought that the two main parties should gradually be thrown off the political horizon.