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

14 August 2022

Over 70 Economists Call For Biden Administration To Return Afghanistan’s Central Bank Reserves


More than 70 economists sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen today urging them to allow the central bank of Afghanistan access to $7 billion in foreign reserves that the Biden administration blocked access to last year following the Taliban takeover of the Afghan government and the US military withdrawal from the country. The economists write that the reserves are crucial for Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), as the central bank is called, to function. And, without an operational central bank, the Afghan economy is not able to work properly, with many unable to receive salaries and the government unable to perform basic monetary duties and limited in paying for imports.

“As economists — and, among us, former central bankers — we are deeply concerned by the compounding economic and humanitarian catastrophes unfolding in Afghanistan, and, in particular, by the role of US policy in driving them,” the letter states. “We write today to urge you to take immediate action to confront this crisis, above all by allowing the central bank of Afghanistan, Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) to reclaim its international reserves.”

David Petraeus Is Wrong: The Afghanistan War Was Never Winnable

Daniel Davis

Was Afghanistan Winnable? As we approach the one-year anniversary of the collapse of the Afghan government and army to a relatively weak Taliban army, there are still few willing to examine the mainly self-inflicted causes for America’s 20-years-in-the-making military defeat. Some, however, cling to the myth that the war could have been one “if only …” There may not be a better example of those who led in Afghanistan and now seek to blame others for the disaster than former general and CIA Director, David H. Petraeus.

Afghanistan is Tough to Conquer

He’s not alone, of course, as the Washington Post exposed in 2019’s The Afghanistan Papers that there was a veritable parade of generals, admirals, and senior civilian leaders that systematically lied to the American public about the war’s progress, virtually throughout the conflict. But owing to Petraeus’ central position in what was alleged to have been the positive turning point in the war – the so-called “Afghan Surge” of 2010 – what he said at the time he was in command and what he’s saying now is especially noteworthy.

Will the Taliban’s Coming Split Lead to Civil War?

Akram Umarov

The ease with which the Taliban was able to remove the government of Ashraf Ghani from power created an illusion about the group’s power, consolidation, and readiness to take full control of the country. The international community expected the Taliban to stabilize Afghanistan and put the entire country under reliable control in order to establish sole power and eliminate security challenges such as terrorism and drug trafficking. However, the U.S. strike on Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri raises questions about the credibility and honesty of the movement. In the eleven months since the Taliban came to power, the group has faced a number of serious internal problems, including increased factional clashes over engagement with foreign partners, the rise of Pashtun nationalism and the exit of ethnic minorities from the movement, and its inability to stabilize the state administration system.

First, almost since the moment the Taliban seized power, there have been systematic clashes within the group over its leadership, pitting the future of the movement's agenda and cooperation with the international community between various factions. In the process of distributing leading state positions, the Taliban is facing serious confrontation between various factions. Despite Mullah Baradar's past success leading the Taliban, he has been demoted to holding a subordinate post as deputy prime minister for economic affairs. At the same time, Deputy Prime Minister for Political Affairs Abdul Kabeer has wide authority and the confidence of the country's supreme leadership.

13 August 2022

Senior Pakistani Taliban leader reportedly killed in Afghanistan

Bill Roggio

Omar Khalid Khurasani, a virulent senior leader of a dangerous faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, was reportedly killed in a roadside bombing in eastern Pakistan on Aug. 6. A spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan confirmed his death, though he has previously also been reportedly killed twice before.

Khurasani, who is believed to have given sanctuary to Ayman al Zawahiri in the past, has called for global jihad, attacks on the U.S. and openly celebrated the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.

Khurasani and two of his deputies, known as Hafiz Dawlat and Mufti Hassan, were killed in a roadside bombing in the Bermal district in the eastern Afghan province of Paktika. To this point, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Khurasani.

Khurasani’s presence in Bermal should come as no surprise as it is a stronghold of the Haqqani Network, the powerful Afghan Taliban subgroup whose leader Sirajuddin Haqqani is one of two deputy Taliban emirs as well as the country’s interior minister. Sirajuddin was sheltering Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri when he was killed in Kabul on July 30, 2022.

The U.S. lost track of why it was in Afghanistan, former commander says

MARY LOUISE KELLY, ERIKA RYAN and PATRICK JARENWATTANANON

Last August, as city after city in Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, General Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie was watching from his post in Tampa, Fl.

McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command at the time, was in regular contact with U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan as they evacuated. His position had him overseeing military operations in East Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Recently retired, McKenzie joined All Things Considered to reflect on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, who bears responsibility for the way it unfolded, and how the U.S. "lost track" of why it was in the country to begin with.

What ever happened to the ‘rules-based international order?’

Connor Echols

Early last week, President Joe Biden announced that the United States had killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, Afghanistan. The news initially sparked widespread media attention, but in the end it came and went with relatively little fanfare, especially for the death of a long-time American enemy with a $25 million bounty on his head.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the announcement (and the discourse that followed) was what was left unsaid. Despite the fact that Biden ran for president in part on restoring the “rules-based international order,” he made no effort to justify the attack under international law, and most news coverage has failed to even touch on the issue.

On the surface, the strike left relatively little to complain about. It was remarkably precise, killing only Zawahiri, and, for many analysts, it proved that America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan would not hinder its ability to conduct precise counter terror missions.

Pentagon Contractors in Afghanistan Pocketed $108 Billion Over 20 Years

JESSICA CORBETT

Pentagon contractors operating in Afghanistan over the past two decades raked in nearly $108 billion—funds that "were distributed and spent with a significant lack of transparency," according to a report published Tuesday.

"These contracts show the shadowy 'camo economy' at work in Afghanistan," said report author Heidi Peltier, director of programs for the Costs of War Project at Brown Univesity's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

"Military contracting obscures where and how taxpayer money flows, who profits, and how much is lost to waste, fraud, and abuse," she added. "It also makes it difficult to know how many people are employed, injured, and killed through military contracting."

What was the International Legal Basis for the Strike on al-Zawahiri?

Craig Martin

The killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a CIA drone strike has been touted as a political win for President Joe Biden, a vindication for an over-the-horizon counter-terrorism strategy, and even as “justice served.” Yet there appears to be little interest in whether it was lawful. The media has not seriously raised the question, the punditry has not addressed it, and the government has not yet provided any official legal basis for the killing (to be fair, some law and policy blogs, such as Lawfare, Just Security, and Articles of War, have begun to address it). This disregard is problematic, as there are indeed serious questions as to the lawfulness of this strike – and people should be demanding answers.

Let us acknowledge up front that Ayman al-Zawahiri was the second-in-command of al-Qaeda at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States – which were heinous crimes, terrorist acts, and amounted to an “armed attack” against the United States under international law.

Nevertheless, his killing some 21 years later requires a legal justification under international law. What is more, the drone strike also constituted a use of force against Afghanistan, with which the United States is no longer engaged in an armed conflict – and so that too requires legal justification. This essay briefly reviews the international law regimes that are implicated (leaving aside entirely the domestic law considerations, such as the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force), and some of the questions regarding the lawfulness of the strike that arise under each regime – and argues that these questions are important.

12 August 2022

Pentagon contractors in Afghanistan operated with minimal disclosure and oversight

Eli Clifton

The rapid collapse of the Afghan National Security Forces last summer and return to power by the Taliban laid bare the failed U.S.-led state-building efforts since 2001. The human and financial costs of the 20-year conflict were staggering — approximately 243,000 people died because of the war and the cost to U.S. taxpayers exceeded $2.3 trillion.

But the war wasn’t a failure for Pentagon contractors who enjoyed $108 billion in contracts for work in Afghanistan, with little oversight, according to a new paper by Brown University’s Cost of War Project.

The paper, authored by Heidi Peltier, finds that 13 companies received over $1 billion each in Pentagon contracts for work in Afghanistan. And those are just some of the contracts disclosed in federal databases. Over one-third of Pentagon contracts for work in Afghanistan — worth $37 billion — went to recipients who are not uniquely identifiable in publicly available contracting databases.

Afghans Promised a Way Out Are Still Trapped by Red Tape

Robbie Gramer, Mary Yang, and Kelly Kimball

Tens of thousands of Afghans who worked alongside U.S. troops and are eligible for potential relocation to the United States remain stuck in limbo in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, nearly a year after Washington’s chaotic withdrawal from the country.

There are around 77,200 Afghans who have applied for a special immigrant visa (SIV) to the United States still in Afghanistan, of which 10,400 primary applicants have received so-called chief of mission approval—a critical step for securing their SIV, according to two U.S. officials and a congressional aide briefed on the latest available data. These applicants often have family members slated to accompany them, so the number of Afghans awaiting safe passage to the United States could be three times that number, officials and congressional aides said.

The staggering number of SIV applicants showcases how, a year after the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, it has failed to live up to its promise to bring Afghans who helped the U.S. war effort to safety, though the Biden administration says its efforts to do so are ongoing and have no time limit. Many SIV applicants still in Afghanistan fear being targeted or killed by the Taliban, which has already stepped up its campaign of torturing and killing former members of the Afghan military and civilians who supported the U.S. war effort and former Afghan government. Since 2001, as many as 300,000 Afghan civilians, including those who do not meet the threshold of SIV requirements set by the State Department, have been affiliated with U.S. operations in Afghanistan, according to the International Rescue Committee.

AFGHANISTAN DID NOT HAVE TO TURN OUT THIS WAY

David Petraeus

Ayear after the chaotic scenes at Kabul airport, the outcome of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is heartbreaking and tragic for many Afghans and devastating for their country. The Afghan government that fell, leading to the return of the Taliban, was maddeningly imperfect, full of frustrating shortcomings, and, in various respects, corrupt. Yet it was also an ally in America’s effort to combat Islamist extremists in Afghanistan and the region, it celebrated many of the freedoms we cherish, and it wanted to ensure them for the long-suffering Afghan people. It was certainly preferable to what replaced it.

Recent decisions by the Taliban, particularly its treatment of women and girls, confirm the trajectory of a regime that seems intent on returning Afghanistan to an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam. It will be incapable of reviving the Afghan economy, which has collapsed since Western forces withdrew. Although the Kabul strike that killed the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was a tremendous achievement by our intelligence and counterterrorism communities, Zawahiri’s very presence in Kabul demonstrated that the Taliban is still willing to provide sanctuary to Islamist extremists. In short, a country of nearly 40 million people—individuals whom we sought to help for two decades—has been condemned to a future of repression and privation and likely will be an incubator for Islamist extremism in the years ahead.

The Rise and Fall of Political Islam

Curt Mills

In the fall, the war was always there, but we did not go there anymore.

One supposes if Hemingway said it better—leave it at that. When news broke of the knockout of the Bin Laden successor Ayman al-Zawahiri last week what dominated (stateside anyway) was a surreal impression of interspace. War on Terror? Afghanistan? Al-Qaeda? More flashbacks from a bad dream.

Felt by Middle East wizards to be even more answerable for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the American Northeast than old Osama himself, Zawahiri remolded airline travel more dramatically than any man until Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, judging by queues and delays in cities across the U.S. this weekend. (I say savor the tang in Napa, Mr. Michigan; those wine moms aren’t going to cut checks by themselves.)

THE RISE AND FALL OF VILLAGE STABILITY OPERATIONS IN AFGHANISTAN: LESSONS FOR FUTURE IRREGULAR WARFARE CAMPAIGNS

Sam Wilkins

In 2009, as American interest focused once again on Afghanistan, seasoned special operations forces (SOF) commanders conceived a plan they believed could transform the floundering war effort. Fueled by frustration with the status quo, the difficulty of holding terrain after clearing operations, and a belief that “there has to be more to solving this problem than killing people,” they called for a return to the Vietnam-era experience of the special operations community by arming progovernment militias to secure rural areas. This bottom-up local defense initiative that resulted took shape as the Village Stability Operations (VSO) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) programs. Both active from 2010 to 2020, the two programs were closely linked—VSO was the tool with which SOF worked to set the conditions for ALP to be established in Afghan districts, and the two programs were largely interdependent and operationalized in tandem.

This innovative approach achieved tangible security outcomes in key and contested districts. While systematic examination of the VSO and ALP programs remains limited, research from RAND and a working paper by Stanford PhD student Jon Bate find a reduction in insurgent attacks in districts where ALP units were set up. American commanders, including General David Petraeus, offered effusive praise for the program, noting its ability to flip key districts away from supporting the Taliban. Some Taliban commanders even viewed ALP units as, in the words of one analyst, “enemy number one” due to their ability to detect and stop attempts to infiltrate local communities.

11 August 2022

Silent Partner: Did Pakistan Help America Assassinate Zawahiri?

Rupert Stone

Lacking boots on the ground in Afghanistan, Washington’s reliance on Islamabad may now be greater than ever before.

When announcing the U.S. airstrike that killed Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, President Joe Biden paid tribute to America’s “allies and partners.” He didn’t provide any names, but it is safe to assume that one of them was Pakistan, a troublesome but long-standing counterterrorism partner for the United States in Afghanistan.

Islamabad has denied playing any sort of role in the operation, but it has usually denied involvement in CIA drone strikes in the past, even when the evidence clearly showed some form of secret approval and collaboration. There are a number of reasons why Pakistan almost certainly helped in this case, too.

Al Qaeda’s Zawahiri Would Have Made a Great American Pundit

Jon Schwarz

ACCORDING TO THE Biden administration, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda, died in a U.S. drone strike on Sunday. Zawahiri had inherited his position from Osama bin Laden after bin Laden was killed in 2011, and he was always one of Al Qaeda’s most ardent propagandists, forever issuing edicts and manifestos. They were meandering and verbose, but if you hack your way through his verbiage, you find that Zawahiri’s rhetorical tricks were — to an incredible degree — exactly the same as those used by American pundits.

One of Zawahiri’s screeds tells you everything you need to know.

In 2007, an Egyptian Islamist named Sayid Imam Sharif wrote a harsh critique of Al Qaeda’s violence. This rocked the jihadist world, since Sharif had been, as described by Lawrence Wright, “one of the first members of Al Qaeda’s top council.”

Officials: Pakistani Militant Leader Killed in Afghanistan

Munir Ahmed

A late night roadside bombing in eastern Afghanistan struck a vehicle carrying members of the Pakistani Taliban group, killing a senior leader and three other militants, several Pakistani officials and militant figures said Monday.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the Sunday night killing of Abdul Wali, also widely known as Omar Khalid Khurasani, in Afghanistan’s Paktika province. His death is a heavy blow to the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan group or the TTP.

The TTP blamed Pakistani intelligence agents for the killing, without offering evidence or elaborating.

The three other slain militants included Khurasani’s driver and two of his close aides. No one else was in the car at the time of the attack, according to Pakistani officials and the TTP members who spoke to The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the attack has not yet been publicly announced.

India’s Latest Concerns With the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is back in the news again. At the third meeting of the CPEC Joint Working Group on International Cooperation and Coordination (JWG-ICC) held on July 21, China and Pakistan decided “to promote cooperation schemes involving third parties in line with existing consensus, including extending to Afghanistan.” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly said that China “hopes to push the alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the development strategies of Afghanistan, support the extension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan, and share China’s development opportunities.”

India has expressed its concerns about the new plans proposed by China and Pakistan. A Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson responded to a media query about the issue by stating that “such actions by any party directly infringe on India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The spokesperson added that “India firmly and consistently opposes projects in the so-called CPEC, which are in Indian territory that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan.” India has called such activities “inherently illegal, illegitimate, and unacceptable.”

The Taliban Are Wrecking Ashura Too

Lynne O’Donnell

The most important commemoration of the Shiite religious calendar has been marked in Afghanistan with more than 100 deaths in targeted attacks on worshippers and the cancellation of the official public holiday of Ashura by the Taliban, who now control the country. Residents of Kabul report that the internet has been shut down in parts of the city, and flags, banners, and traditional activities—such as community tea stalls—have been destroyed in what many believe is part of concerted attempts to eradicate them altogether.

Ashura, which falls on Aug. 8 this year, culminates a month of mourning to commemorate the death of Imam Hussain ibn Ali, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad who was killed in the late 7th century in what is now Iraq. His death cemented the schism within Islam between followers of his father, Ali, known as Shiites, and Sunnis, who make up the vast majority of Muslims worldwide and generally regard Shiites as apostate. In Afghanistan, Shiites—who are also mostly of the Hazara ethnicity—are regularly attacked by the Taliban and other Sunni extremist groups.

10 August 2022

What Are the Implications of Uzbekistan’s Rapprochement With the Taliban?

Akram Umarov and Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili

In a dramatic shift from just a few years ago, when it closed its doors and eyes to its southern neighbor, Uzbekistan is now determined to play a leading role in global Afghanistan policy. This is evidenced by the fact that Uzbekistan hosted its third global conference on Afghanistan in as many years last month. The forum, which focused on economic development and security issues, was attended by more than 100 representatives from almost 30 countries. Most notably, it brought leaders of the Taliban into the same room with U.S. diplomats.

The conference was significant because it demonstrated the relentlessness with which the government of Uzbekistan is willing to work with the leadership of Afghanistan, regardless of who is in power.

For decades, Uzbekistan had chilly relations with Afghanistan. Since President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in 2016, he has realigned the country’s foreign policy by arguing that a healthy Afghanistan yields a healthy region. As Tashkent has become more comfortable with Taliban leadership, it has sought to bridge those parties, like the U.S., that still have tense relations with the Taliban.

9 August 2022

Despite repression, civilians resist their jihadist rulers

Isak Svensson, Daniel Finnbogason, Dino Krause

Between 2014 and 2019, the so-called Islamic State imposed an ultra-repressive proto-state in its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The group became infamous for its drastic attempt to implement what it regarded as a truly Islamic, Sharia-based form of governance. Civilians were exposed to drastic and brutal punishments when they disrespected the new regulations, ranging from public executions to floggings and amputations.

In a new book published with Oxford University Press, Isak Svensson (Professor at Uppsala University), DIIS PhD Candidate Dino Krause and three co-authors (Daniel Finnbogason, Luís Martínez Lorenzo and Nanar Hawach) investigate how Iraqi civilians in Mosul found ways to resist IS’s brutal reign of terror, despite the extremely repressive circumstances. The authors show that non-violent resistance against the group was widespread and highly diverse, ranging from a few cases of open, more confrontative acts of defiance to more common, hidden resistance such as listening to forbidden music, consuming alcohol, or refusing to pay taxes.