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

6 December 2019

Hot Issue – Al-Qaeda’s Long Game in the Sinai

By: Michael W. S. Ryan

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s long-game strategy has created international networks with the ultimate intention of creating a united Islamic Emirate to take the place of the lost Ottoman Caliphate, across a continuous band from Turkistan to the Atlantic coast. [1] Bruce Hoffman brought the implications of al-Qaeda’s expansive international presence, including countries beyond Zawahiri’s traditional caliphate, into bold relief over a year ago when he argued that al-Qaeda “should now be considered the world’s top terrorist group.” [2] A renewed look is especially important now that the United States has shifted its national security priorities away from counterterrorism in the Greater Middle East and North Africa to focus on the threats posed by Russia and China. Now, President Donald Trump has also signaled his intention to abandon the successful American counterterrorism strategy that is based on strategic relationships with local partners who provide ground forces and are assisted by small cadres of American Special Forces.

While the world press has been focused on the potential resurgence of Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq in the aftermath of the fall of the physical caliphate and the death of its self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a serious threat may emerge from al-Qaeda’s networks of like-minded Jihadi-Salafist groups. Many IS fighters in Syria are not Syrians. Academic studies and past experience have shown that once converted to an extremist ideology, such individuals resist surrendering to reason. If they escape from Syria, do they return to another prison in their home countries, or do they travel to another “hot jihad” location with an IS affiliate in Egypt or North Africa, or perhaps this time disappear into al-Qaeda’s networks? [3] Like others before them, will Egyptians with significant experience fighting with Jihadi-Salafist groups in Syria or Iraq decide to find their way to use their battle skills in the Sinai or elsewhere in North Africa? Al-Qaeda’s online voices are suggesting that IS fighters join them in a common struggle against the forces of unbelief. Could IS under its new caliph, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, allow cooperation in the field with al-Qaeda networked groups without requiring a formal alliance? While this decision will likely come slowly, if at all, in the battlefields across the Greater Middle East and Africa, the lines between IS and al-Qaeda have begun to blur. If the recent past has one lesson, Sinai could provide logistical and command links from the central Muslim lands into the active fields of jihad in North Africa, the Sahel, and sub-Saharan West Africa.

The al-Qaeda Approach in the Egyptian Cauldron

The Larger Significance of Pakistan’s Army Chief Extension Debate

By Daud Khattak
Source Link

In Pakistan, the word “extension” has become synonymous with one particular usage: extending the service of a retiring chief of the country’s all-powerful military. The concept has a history as old as Pakistan itself — six army chiefs in the past have either extended their period of service upon reaching the age of retirement, or their term was extended by the then-governments.

However, the floodgates opened by the term extension of General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s current army chief whose service term was ending on November 28, was unprecedented.

The government notification granting Bajwa another three years as chief of the army staff (COAS) was challenged by the country’s top court and the issue remained the subject of public and private debates and speculations for three consecutive days across Pakistan.

The impasse was averted with the court decision allowing a six-month reprieve to the general, during which time the government must sort out the matter through legislation. Parliament must define the reasons for granting an extension to an army chief’s service term, tenure, and other necessary terms and conditions.

5 December 2019

New civil-military tensions in Pakistan aren't necessarily good news for India; New Delhi must be vigilant

Praveen Swami 

Everything had been planned with military precision, down to the last detail — bar one: Someone had forgotten that Lieutenant-General Khwaja Ziauddin would need a fourth star on his uniform when he took his place as Pakistan's next army chief. Then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, though, wasn't about to let a pip undo his plans. The prime minister's military secretary, Brigadier Javed Malik, gallantly tore a star off his own uniform, and handed it over to the newly-appointed army chief.

Late that evening, though, General Pervez Musharraf flew back to Pakistan and staged a coup. Ziauddin was relieved of his new rank at gunpoint. Malik never got his pip back. Nawaz went to prison, and then exile.

From his hospital bed in London, the former prime minister will be watching television with some satisfaction. Tuesday's extraordinary orders by Pakistan's Supreme Court, suspending now-army chief General Qamar Bajwa's three-year term until it can hear the case, mark an historic challenge to military supremacy in Pakistan — one that could open the way for prime ministers to pin pips on whom they wish.

Behind the courtroom drama, though, there is a larger struggle playing out. Evicted from office by Bajwa, and then imprisoned, to enable the rise of Prime Minister Imran Khan's proxy-for-the-generals government, Nawaz is once again being seen as a credible partner by actors in the military opposed to Bajwa.

The Larger Significance of Pakistan’s Army Chief Extension Debate

By Daud Khattak

In Pakistan, the word “extension” has become synonymous with one particular usage: extending the service of a retiring chief of the country’s all-powerful military. The concept has a history as old as Pakistan itself — six army chiefs in the past have either extended their period of service upon reaching the age of retirement, or their term was extended by the then-governments.

However, the floodgates opened by the term extension of General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s current army chief whose service term was ending on November 28, was unprecedented.

The government notification granting Bajwa another three years as chief of the army staff (COAS) was challenged by the country’s top court and the issue remained the subject of public and private debates and speculations for three consecutive days across Pakistan.

Assessment of Increased Chinese Strategic Presence in Afghanistan

By Humayun Hassan
Source Link

Humayun Hassan is an undergraduate student at National University of Sciences and technology, Pakistan. His areas of research interests include 5th and 6th generation warfare and geopolitics of the Levant. He can be found on Twitter @Humayun_17. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Title: Assessment of Increased Chinese Strategic Presence in Afghanistan

Date Originally Written: September 15, 2019.

Date Originally Published: December 2, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View: This article is written from the Chinese standpoint, with regards to U.S and North Atlantic Treaty Organization member country (NATO) presence in Afghanistan and the pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative.

London Bridge attacker Usman Khan a terror convict who sought Sharia in POK

NAYANIMA BASU 
Source Link

New Delhi: A Pakistani-origin terror convict has been identified as the assailant who stabbed two people to death near the London Bridge Friday, British media reported. 

Usman Khan, 28, who was tackled by bystanders and shot dead by police, was reportedly found wearing a fake suicide vest.

Khan was convicted on terrorism charges, including an alleged conspiracy to attack the London Stock Exchange, in 2012. His hit-list, it is believed, included British Prime Minister and then London mayor Boris Johnson. At the time, the judge had called him a “serious jihadist”. 

Sentenced to eight years, he was released on parole last December with an electronic monitoring tag on his body. He had since been living at Staffordshire in the West Midlands of England. 

“We are now in a position to confirm the identity of the suspect as 28-year-old Usman Khan who had been residing in the Staffordshire area,” London Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu said in a statement

Pakistan’s Highest Court Suspends the Army Chief’s Term Extension. What Now?

By Umair Jamal
Source Link

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has suspended a government-issued directive that approved a three-year term extension for the current chief of army staff. It’s an extraordinary development, as never in the country’s history has a court intervened to question — let alone suspend — an army chief’s extension or appointment.

The current army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, will see his constitutionally fixed three-year tenure ended on Friday, November 29. After three days of hearings, the court has decided to give Bajwa six months’ extension with a condition that the parliament will amend the constitution to find a permanent solution to the issue. Regardless, the situation will have far-reaching implications for Pakistan’s politics. The case’s hearing not only challenged the technicalities presented by the government, but has also asked some fundamental questions concerning the entire subject of army chief term extensions.

To begin with, the Supreme Court didn’t have to intervene in the army chief extension debate, particularly after the original petitioner withdrew the case. However, the court overruled the application to withdraw the petition, stating that the case fell into the “domain of public interest under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution.” The Supreme Court’s forceful involvement is a extraordinary development that has raised concerns as to whether the intervention is an independent decision or if something else is at play.

4 December 2019

HTLS 2019: The China-Pak nexus is a threat. India is countering it well | Opinion

Jayadev Ranade
Source Link

The government’s move has been timely, and comes just before the China-Pakistan nexus begins to more directly threaten Kashmir. India has now begun to mainstream Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country, further consolidating its sovereignty(Bloomberg)

There is a churn in international politics. In Asia, this decade has witnessed the rise of countries such as India and Vietnam. Japan is seeking to regain its lost influence in the region. But the most dynamic of all these nations is China, which poses a challenge to the existing world order and the primacy of the United States (US).

China’s President Xi Jinping declared as much at the 19th Party Congress in 2017, when he advocated a concept of “community of common destiny of shared values”. In this backdrop, countries are exploring the possibility of new relationships, while assessing the impact of potential changes on their societies, security and values. The US and western nations are apprehensive of China’s challenge. So are China’s neighbours.

3 December 2019

Pakistan’s Highest Court Suspends the Army Chief’s Term Extension. What Now?

By Umair Jamal
Source Link

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has suspended a government-issued directive that approved a three-year term extension for the current chief of army staff. It’s an extraordinary development, as never in the country’s history has a court intervened to question — let alone suspend — an army chief’s extension or appointment.

The current army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, will see his constitutionally fixed three-year tenure ended on Friday, November 29. After three days of hearings, the court has decided to give Bajwa six months’ extension with a condition that the parliament will amend the constitution to find a permanent solution to the issue. Regardless, the situation will have far-reaching implications for Pakistan’s politics. The case’s hearing not only challenged the technicalities presented by the government, but has also asked some fundamental questions concerning the entire subject of army chief term extensions.

To begin with, the Supreme Court didn’t have to intervene in the army chief extension debate, particularly after the original petitioner withdrew the case. However, the court overruled the application to withdraw the petition, stating that the case fell into the “domain of public interest under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution.” The Supreme Court’s forceful involvement is a extraordinary development that has raised concerns as to whether the intervention is an independent decision or if something else is at play.

1 December 2019

Trump Visits Afghanistan and Says He Reopened Talks With Taliban

By Michael Crowley

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — President Trump paid an unannounced Thanksgiving visit to American troops in Afghanistan on Thursday and declared that he had reopened peace negotiations with the Taliban less than three months after scuttling talks in hopes of ending 18 years of war.

“The Taliban wants to make a deal, and we’re meeting with them,” Mr. Trump said during a meeting with Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, at the main base for American forces north of Kabul.

“We’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal, or we have total victory, and they want to make a deal very badly,” Mr. Trump added even as he reaffirmed his desire to reduce the American military presence to 8,600 troops, down from about 12,000 to 13,000.

Mr. Trump’s sudden announcement on peace talks came at a critical moment in the United States’ long, drawn-out military venture in Afghanistan, a time when the country is mired in turmoil over disputed election results and Americans at home are increasingly tired of an operation that began shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Iran foreign minister meets senior Taliban official in Tehran


GENEVA (Reuters) - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held talks in Tehran with a Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the group’s founders, the official IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

Zarif expressed Iran’s willingness to support dialogue between all Afghan parties with the participation of the Afghan government, according to IRNA.

The Taliban have refused to talk to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, denouncing it as a U.S. puppet.

Last week, the Taliban released American and Australian university professors held hostage for more than three years, completing a delayed prisoner swap and raising hopes for a revival of peace talks.

Iran also held talks with a delegation from Afghanistan’s Taliban in September, a week after peace talks between the United States and the Islamist insurgents collapsed.

Iran said in December it had been meeting with Taliban representatives with the knowledge of the Afghan government, after reports of U.S.-Taliban talks about a ceasefire and a possible withdrawal of foreign troops.

29 November 2019

Pakistan’s Haqqani Network Increases Its Profile in Afghan Peace Talks

By Umair Jamal

The recent prisoner swap between the United States and the Afghan Taliban is the first major development since the collapse of the peace talks earlier this year, which suggests that the peace process’ revival has been accepted by all major stakeholders. The development, which was facilitated by Islamabad and endorsed by the Afghan government, Washington, and the Taliban, indicates that the restoration of dialogue has formally begun.

In Afghanistan’s context, the progress shows that the Afghan government is ready to work with the United States and other regional stakeholders despite the former’s previous rejection of the peace process. From the Afghan government’s perspective, the sanctioning of the recent exchange shows two things. First, while the Afghan government doesn’t stand to gain much from the prisoner swap, the former has no option but to agree with the parties making a deal. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to allow the prisoner exchange is to an extent driven by his weakening legitimacy domestically, which is not only being challenged by his political rivals, but also by stakeholders that want to make a deal with the Taliban.

28 November 2019

Afghanistan’s Air Force Receives Five More MD-530F Helicopters



By Franz-Stefan Gady

Arizona-based U.S. defense contractor MD Helicopters, Inc., announced the delivery of another batch of five MD-530F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) on November 22. According to a press statement, the light attack helicopters were delivered to Kandahar via a Boeing 747 cargo aircraft on October 27 and reassembled for active service within ten days.

The five MD-530Fs are part of a follow-on batch of 30 helicopters ordered by the U.S. Army under a wider $1.4 billion Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract issued in September 2017.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the 2017 contract entails the “procurement of an estimated quantity of 150 MD 530F aircraft and required production support services to include program management, delivery support, pilot training and maintenance” by September 2022.

Pakistan: Bajwa, CPEC, and ‘acceptable opinion’

By IMAD ZAFAR

The famous American scholar Noam Chomsky once said, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” It seems Pakistan’s current hybrid regime controlled by the invisible forces is doing the same thing. Opinions are made acceptable and unacceptable on the basis of the needs of the regime, and narratives have been built on misleading and distorted facts.

This has muzzled the already weakened press and freedom of expression and as a result, media and intellectuals instead of debating the real challenges faced by the country are only discussing the imaginary corruption of the opposition parties’ leaders. Such is the poor state of affairs that when on Tuesday the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended the notification of the extension of General Qamar Bajwa’s tenure as Chief of Army Staff, the television channels were showing different news and the government acted as if nothing had happened.

The Supreme Court raised objections on the procedure of Prime Minister Imran Khan granting an extension to the army chief without the approval of all the cabinet members, and it also said the extension notification came from Prime Minister’s Office instead of the President’s Office.

27 November 2019

Hot Issue – Al-Qaeda’s Long Game in the Sinai

By: Michael W. S. Ryan

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s long-game strategy has created international networks with the ultimate intention of creating a united Islamic Emirate to take the place of the lost Ottoman Caliphate, across a continuous band from Turkistan to the Atlantic coast. [1] Bruce Hoffman brought the implications of al-Qaeda’s expansive international presence, including countries beyond Zawahiri’s traditional caliphate, into bold relief over a year ago when he argued that al-Qaeda “should now be considered the world’s top terrorist group.” [2] A renewed look is especially important now that the United States has shifted its national security priorities away from counterterrorism in the Greater Middle East and North Africa to focus on the threats posed by Russia and China. Now, President Donald Trump has also signaled his intention to abandon the successful American counterterrorism strategy that is based on strategic relationships with local partners who provide ground forces and are assisted by small cadres of American Special Forces.

While the world press has been focused on the potential resurgence of Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq in the aftermath of the fall of the physical caliphate and the death of its self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a serious threat may emerge from al-Qaeda’s networks of like-minded Jihadi-Salafist groups. Many IS fighters in Syria are not Syrians. Academic studies and past experience have shown that once converted to an extremist ideology, such individuals resist surrendering to reason. If they escape from Syria, do they return to another prison in their home countries, or do they travel to another “hot jihad” location with an IS affiliate in Egypt or North Africa, or perhaps this time disappear into al-Qaeda’s networks? [3] Like others before them, will Egyptians with significant experience fighting with Jihadi-Salafist groups in Syria or Iraq decide to find their way to use their battle skills in the Sinai or elsewhere in North Africa? Al-Qaeda’s online voices are suggesting that IS fighters join them in a common struggle against the forces of unbelief. Could IS under its new caliph, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, allow cooperation in the field with al-Qaeda networked groups without requiring a formal alliance? While this decision will likely come slowly, if at all, in the battlefields across the Greater Middle East and Africa, the lines between IS and al-Qaeda have begun to blur. If the recent past has one lesson, Sinai could provide logistical and command links from the central Muslim lands into the active fields of jihad in North Africa, the Sahel, and sub-Saharan West Africa.

Like In Iran, 1979 Changed The U.S.-Pakistan Relationship Forever

by Connor Martin

2019 marks the 40th anniversary of 1979 – which, aside from being just another anniversary, was a landmark year for American foreign and national security policy regarding the Greater Middle East. In fact, 1979 may be said to mark the year when multiple developments fundamentally changed our approach to security policy across the Islamic world. 

That year, particularly the months of November and December, saw the occurrence of several tectonic events: the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the start of the Iran hostage crisis, the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Alarming and frustrating at the time – these events represented a sea change that we’re still grappling with today.

But another notable incident also occurred exactly 40 years ago – one that was somewhat overshadowed by other events at the time, and that has, unfortunately, been somewhat lost to history since.

US-Taliban Unofficial Talks Underway in Doha: Sources


Discussion between the US and Taliban has begun again in Qatar, but in an unofficial capacity, two sources familiar with the matter told TOLOnews.

The sources said the two sides are discussing a reduction in violence and the resumption of official talks between American and Taliban negotiators.

“The talks right now are underway secretly and I think that they are in favor of Afghanistan,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander now based in Kabul. “Based on my information, official negotiations are not underway like they were in the past.”

The Presidential Palace said Washington is consulting with the Afghan government during these unofficial talks. 

“This time, we are in agreement in the sense that our goals and priorities for peace are completely clear, with issues like a reduction of violence which will result in a ceasefire, and, ultimately, the start of direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban,” said presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

25 November 2019

Will a Prisoner Swap with the Taliban Push the Afghan Peace Process Forward?

Scott Worden

The Afghan government moves to starts direct negotiations, but a host of obstacles remain in the way.

It’s been over two months since President Trump announced a halt to U.S.-Taliban peace talks. In a move that could revive the moribund peace process, the Afghan government and Taliban completed a prisoner exchange that had been announced last week but then delayed. An American and Australian professor held by the Taliban were freed in return for three senior Taliban figures. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s September 28 presidential election remains undecided, further complicating peace efforts. USIP’s Scott Worden looks at what impact the prisoner exchange could have on the peace process, how regional actors have sought to fill the vacuum in the absence of the U.S.-led talks and the connection between negotiations and the election.

What impact could the prisoner exchange have on the peace process and the U.S. role in it?

24 November 2019

Insurgent Bureaucracy: How the Taliban Makes Policy

Ashley Jackson; Rahmatullah Amiri

The system of shadow Taliban governance and the experiences of civilians subject to it are well documented. The policies that guide this governance and the factors that contribute to them, however, are not. This report examines how the Taliban make and implement policy. Based on more than a hundred interviews and previously unreleased Taliban documents, this report offers rare insight into Taliban decision-making processes and the factors that influence them.

Multiple actors—from the Taliban leadership to local commanders—have played a key role in creating and shaping the movement’s policy in Afghanistan. Taliban policymaking has been top-down as much as it has been bottom-up, with the leadership shaping the rules as much as fighters and commanders on the ground. The result is a patchwork of practices that leadership has increasingly sought to exert control over and make more consistent. This became possible as the Taliban put structures and mechanisms in place, particularly after 2014, to enforce compliance among its ranks. However, although the rules may be set at the top, local variance, negotiation, and adaptation is still considerable.

Déjà Vu: Preventing Another Collapse in South Sudan


What’s new? South Sudan could slide back into war. With a 12 November deadline for the formation of a unity government looming, President Salva Kiir is hinting at assembling one without his chief rival Riek Machar. Even if he includes Machar, contentious issues such as security arrangements and state boundaries remain unresolved.

Why does it matter? Since the September 2018 peace deal, the parties have largely stopped fighting and people can move more freely between towns and fields near front lines. External actors could imperil these gains if they push the parties into a unity government that then falls apart or permit Kiir to exclude Machar.

What should be done? Regional heads of state, the African Union and Western diplomats should urge President Kiir to avoid forming a new government without consensus. They should step in to help mediate a way forward, given political paralysis among South Sudan’s neighbours, initially envisioned as the deal’s key guarantors.