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

26 October 2021

Opportunities Open Up For Reset in US-India-Pakistan Relations

Don McLain Gill

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to New Delhi, India in July 2021.Credit: Facebook/Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

On October 7, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said that Washington has “no interest” in hyphenating India and Pakistan, and that it does not envision building a “broad relationship with Pakistan.” This statement comes at a time when the situation in Afghanistan is evolving. As the Taliban continue to consolidate power in the country, the overt role of Pakistan throughout the take-over process cannot be overlooked.

Despite behavior that often violates international norms, the U.S. continued to maintain positive relations with Pakistan. Pakistan was often viewed as a significant component in U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. This perception allowed Washington to turn a blind eye towards Pakistan’s supporting and granting haven to terror groups. Due to the assumed significance of Pakistan in U.S. Afghan policy, Washington’s relations with India had an unspoken limitation.

Who Gets to Escape the Taliban

Jane Ferguson

Even at midnight, the Dubai airport is sweltering in mid-August. My colleague and cameraman Eric O’Connor and I stood on the tarmac, sweating our way through one of the hardest decisions of our careers. It was the evening of August 14th, we were on assignment for “PBS NewsHour,” and the Taliban seemed poised to take Kabul. We had checked in, cancelled, and then checked in again for our flight to the Afghan capital. Should we get on that plane? We knew that the moment Kabul fell, the airport would likely close and we would be trapped. Journalists from the Times and the Wall Street Journal were already evacuating. Twice, we got on and off the bus to our flight. There were about two dozen other passengers, all Afghans. “Don’t worry,” I told Eric, as we finally clambered up the steps of the plane. “If there is fighting in Kabul we won’t land.” Neither of us was convinced. After takeoff, suspended in the quiet, dark hum of the flight, I journalled to settle my nerves. “As we land, I don’t know if the city will have fallen, or if the evacuations will be over. Everything changes with each hour,” I wrote. “The truth is, I’m afraid.”

Pakistan's Imran Khan Is in Hot Water

Here's What You Need To Remember: This fractured PTI government found it hard to speak with one voice and offer a coherent vision for improving governance. Yet it muddled through, aided by an equally divided opposition that failed to mount a unified challenge.

Imran Khan became Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2018 after defeating entrenched dynastic political parties that had been alternating in government for decades. His Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had not been a strong force on the national scene but promised a ‘tsunami’ of change to produce a ‘New Pakistan’. It is struggling to fulfill that promise.

As Khan enters the second half of his five-year term, the situation does not augur well — partly because of the intrinsic weaknesses of his own government, and partly because of external factors that are hurting the economy. PTI retains a majority in the National Assembly but does not control the Senate, hindering Khan’s ability to fully enact his legislative agenda. Even though he faces a fractured and somewhat discredited opposition, an uncertain economy and turmoil in Afghanistan will affect his ability to manage Pakistan and prepare for a fresh election.

25 October 2021

The Story the Media Missed in Afghanistan

Michael Massing

Since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the American press has focused on the fates of three groups that are of special interest to Western readers. One is the many thousands of Afghans who had worked with the US government and military or other Western organizations and were desperate to leave. In addition to dramatic reports about the evacuation chaos at the Kabul airport, correspondents offered affecting stories about soldiers working to get their Afghan interpreters and fixers out, nongovernmental organizations seeking safe conduct for their Afghan coworkers, and Afghans living in the United States scrambling to extract stranded family members. David Rohde in The New Yorker described his efforts to save the family of the Afghan man who helped him escape his kidnappers in 2009.

Afghan journalists have been another focal point. US news organizations, feeling both a professional bond with and personal responsibility for their Afghan colleagues, have provided extensive coverage of Taliban attacks on them and free expression generally. They have reported on the struggles of Tolo, Afghanistan’s leading broadcaster, to keep operating under Taliban rule; the detention and beating of journalists covering women’s demonstrations; and the fears among artists, musicians, writers, and other intellectuals about the steadily shrinking space for dissent. NPR aired a seven-minute interview with an Afghan woman who had served as one of its producers in Kabul and who was now living in limbo on a military base in Wisconsin, impatiently waiting to begin a journalism and human rights fellowship at UC Berkeley.

A Taxing Narrative: Miscalculating Revenues and Misunderstanding the Conflict in Afghanistan

David Mansfield

The assumption that the Taliban collected significant amounts of money taxing the cultivation of opium, the production of opiates, and on the smuggling of drugs across Afghanistan’s borders is the bedrock on which a narrative of a narco- insurgency was constructed. Allegations of the involvement of some of its senior leadership in drugs trafficking cement this narrative to the point where some Western military leaders have argued that the Taliban was little more than a criminal enterprise whose territorial ambitions were primarily driven by its involvement in the drugs business. Even the Taliban’s prohibition of opium in 2000— described by a senior member of UNODC at the time as “one of the most remarkable successes ever”— is viewed by parts of the UN, western analysts, and some donors as a cynical ploy designed to increase prices and the value of what was believed to be an accumulated stock, due to the belief that the Taliban’s primary source of finance was illegal drugs.This paper reflects a comprehensive empirical account of the monies earned by the Taliban and an appeal that features assessments of funding for the state and non-state actors, not just in Afghanistan but in other fragile and conflict-affected states. The analysis is grounded in strong evidence that is built on appropriate methods.

Pakistan Needs a Homegrown Counterterrorism Policy

Abdul Basit

There are many lessons to be gleaned from the U.S. failure in Afghanistan. Some of the key ones involve counterterrorism: what works, what doesn’t. The answers, however, aren’t the same for every participant, or for every situation. An approach pursued by a distant superpower like the United States—actionable intelligence and superior firepower, all at the service of a nebulous and never-ending “war on terror”—clearly can’t work for a country like Pakistan, which can’t run away when things go bad. That’s why Pakistan urgently needs to revise its counterterrorism policies, away from kinetic operations and toward winning hearts and minds.

As it is, the war on terror—so much a part of the local vernacular that it’s known by its acronym, WOT—has arguably made matters worse for Pakistan, where extremism and terrorism have only become more entrenched.

There’s a longstanding and widespread perception, for instance, that radical militants in Pakistan are generally madrassa-educated youth from tribal and rural backgrounds. That may have once been true. But recent trends indicate extremist ideology has now permeated Pakistan’s educated middle and upper-middle classes. To confront this spread, Pakistan needs to develop a homegrown counterterrorism approach that is more nuanced and holistic—and cleansed of the taint of American involvement.

Russia Hosts Afghan Talks, Calls for Inclusive Government

Vladimir Isachenkov

Russia hosted talks on Afghanistan on Wednesday involving senior representatives of the Taliban and neighboring nations, a round of diplomacy that underlines Moscow’s clout.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov opened the talks and emphasized that “forming a really inclusive government fully reflecting the interests of not only all ethnic groups but all political forces of the country” is necessary to achieve a stable peace in Afghanistan.

Russia had worked for years to establish contacts with the Taliban, even though it designated the group a terror organization in 2003 and never took it of the list. Any contact with such groups is punishable under Russian law, but the Foreign Ministry has responded to questions about the apparent contradiction by saying that its exchanges with the Taliban are essential for helping stabilize Afghanistan.

24 October 2021

A Remote Corner of Afghanistan Offers a Peek Into the Future of the Country

Franz J. Marty

KAMDESH, NURISTAN — In the dead of night on August 30, 2021, the last U.S. forces stepped off the tarmac of Kabul Airport onto a plane and left Afghanistan. It was almost 20 years after the first U.S. forces entered Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, to go after al-Qaida and topple the Emirate of the Taliban that sheltered them. In a twist that would have been unimaginable back in late 2001, by the time the U.S. left the Taliban again held sway in the capital Kabul and practically in the whole of Afghanistan – a feat that they did not even achieve at the prior height of their power in September 2001.

What the future holds for Afghanistan is difficult to predict and depends on what exactly the Taliban and the international community will do in the next weeks and months. However, the situation in one remote corner of Afghanistan offers a peek into the future of the whole country.

Afghanistan and the Future of US Foreign Policy

David S. Clukey

September 11, 2021 marked 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 (911) and shortly before this solemn commemoration, on August 30, the United States (US) withdrew the last of its military forces from Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA).[1] Prior to the withdrawal, US forces had been on the ground in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001. In these two decades, the US spent over $2 trillion USD[2] and invested over 2,300[3] in human capital to offer Afghanistan a chance for prosperity. Unfortunately, the way the US withdrew from Afghanistan appeared as curious as it did haphazard. On a global stage, the US orchestrated a series of diplomatic, tactical, and strategic missteps that were all preventable. Although cringeworthy and tragic, these recent missteps offer opportunity for reflection and lessons to learn from; as did the way the US approached the war in Afghanistan.

“Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. For defeat brings worse things than any that can ever happen in war.” – Ernest Hemingway

The great irony is the US capitulated to the very terrorist group it drove from power 20 years earlier, and in doing so, created a pathway to enable the Taliban to recreate the conditions that precipitated 911 to begin with. In order to better understand the events that led to this and assist decision makers preclude a costly calamity like this in the future, this essay examines three US policy failures consisting of: (1) connection to the conflict; (2) mission creep; and (3) diplomacy, and how these lessons may shape future US foreign policy and armed conflicts.

What Have We Learned: From 20 Years In Afghanistan

Mike Shaler

“No Valor Citation ever began: ‘As things went according to plan….’ “

Attributed to Mike Nelson (Tweet), August 25, 2021

The War In Afghanistan had a beginning --- In Central Command Headquarters, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida --- Army General Tommy Franks was the Commander of United States Central Command --- In his book ‘American Soldier’, he wrote:

“October 7, 2001. It was 0900 on Sunday, October 7, 2001,

less than one month since 9/11. The war would begin

in three and a half hours.” [Footnote 1]

And today, President Biden, in a speech delivered from the White House,

announced the end:

23 October 2021

Towards a jihadist neo-sanctuary in Afghanistan?

Jean-Luc Marret
Source Link

It seems likely that the American evacuation of Afghanistan, with its procession of traumatic "happenings", was constrained by the calendar of 9-11 commemoration. The aim of the Biden administration was to end a twenty-year record unfavorable in many aspects: the failure of democratization efforts in Afghanistan, a lack of security, and the collapse of the Afghan National Army (ANA).

In fact, the constant international, political, humanitarian, and security effort since 2001 has had the ironic result of enabling the Taliban to control a country whose development level is far greater than it was in the past. This is not without consequences, in particular for the sustainability of the new Islamic "emirate," or more broadly, the viability of "global Jihad."

If the appearance of a new "terrorist sanctuary," to borrow a term from the 2000s, is not impossible, attracting militants and sympathizers from all over the world, as was the case after the Soviet withdrawal, another scenario is plausible, too: an "emirate" tolerated, although not recognized internationally in general, partly integrated to globalization through the exploitation of its natural resources, legally or not, and which would take into account the potentially harmful consequences for its survival of the application of a too visibly intransigent sharia.

21 October 2021

Afghan Taliban’s victory boosts Pakistan’s radicals


PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — In Pakistan’s rugged tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan, a quiet and persistent warning is circulating: The Taliban are returning.

Pakistan’s own Taliban movement, which had in years past waged a violent campaign against the Islamabad government, has been emboldened by the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

They seem to be preparing to retake control of the tribal regions that they lost nearly seven years ago in a major operation by Pakistan’s military. Pakistani Taliban are already increasing their influence. Local contractors report Taliban-imposed surcharges on every contract and the killing of those who defy them.

In early September, for example, a contractor named Noor Islam Dawar built a small canal not far from the town of Mir Ali near the Afghan border. It wasn’t worth more than $5,000. Still, the Taliban came calling, demanding their share of $1,100. Dawar had nothing to give and pleaded for their understanding, according to relatives and local activists. A week later he was dead, shot by unknown gunmen. His family blames the Taliban.

Taliban Could Lose Power Amid Governance Struggles, Experts Say


For the Taliban, winning was easy but governing is proving to be harder.

Two months after the terrorist group seized control of Afghanistan, fighters who have spent the past two decades as insurgents are struggling to govern the country’s 40 million residents, experts say. If the Taliban government fails to provide for citizens’ basic needs, including food, water and medical care, it too could find itself pushed out of power sooner rather than later, said Asfandyar Mir, a senior expert at the United States Institute of Peace.

“We might see another collapse over the next six months, maybe 12 months, a little bit down the road. The Taliban are really struggling to govern the country,” Mir said at the Soufan Center’s Global Security Forum in Doha. “It’s a real crisis that is brewing in that country, and I don’t see any international actor having much interest in extending a helping hand to the Taliban.”

The Fall of A Country: The Untold, Eyewitness Story Of Afghanistan’s Collapse

Lynne O'Donnell

On the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, while the names of the dead were being read aloud one by one in a somber New York ceremony of remembrance, the terrorists, child abusers and drug dealers responsible for the atrocity celebrated their victorious return to power in Afghanistan.

It was no coincidence that September 11 was the date the Taliban originally picked to inaugurate their new government in Kabul — but wiser heads in China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan prevailed; even for America’s worst enemies, such blatant contempt was a step too far.

Instead, the Taliban held a flag-raising ceremony inside the tessellated walls and manicured grounds of the presidential palace, “officially” replacing the Islamic Republic’s black, red and green flag with the white banner of their Islamic Emirate. And the new regime’s armed enforcers continued as they began a few weeks before, hunting down opponents to torture and kill.

20 October 2021

Al Qaeda successfully played ‘long game’ in Afghanistan, FBI and UN officials say

Jerry Dunleavy

Al Qaeda has been "strategically patient" and successfully "played the long game" in Afghanistan through its close relationship with the Taliban and Haqqani network, according to two key international security officials from the FBI and the United Nations.

Charles Spencer, the assistant director of the FBI’s international operations division, and Edmund Fitton-Brown, coordinator of the UN’s analytical support and sanctions monitoring team concerning the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and the Taliban, made their comments about al Qaeda’s resilience during an interview with U.S. journalist Peter Bergen at the Soufan Center’s Global Security Forum on Tuesday.

“I think they are smart. They played the long game. They did play the long game, I think, knowing — I mean, if you go all the way back to the ‘90s, I mean, bin Laden pledged allegiance to the Taliban, and I think the Taliban has been a support of al Qaeda for all this time,” Spencer said. “And they knew if the Taliban came back in, I believe those allegiances, I believe those understandings will still be there. I think externally, whether the Taliban says it will embrace it or not, I think the underlying, the long-standing relationship they’ve had, will carry through.”

Robert Gates: Afghanistan withdrawal 'probably did not need to have turned out that way'


Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan “probably did not need to have turned out that way,” pinning blame on both former President Trump and President Biden.

Gates — during an interview with “60 Minutes” that is set to air on Sunday — said watching the U.S. pull troops from Kabul sickened him.

“It was really tough… I actually wasn't feeling very well… And I was just so low about the way it had ended,” Gates told Anderson Cooper.

“The other feeling that I had was that it probably did not need to have turned out that way,” he added.

Gates served as Defense secretary from 2006 until 2011, overseeing the war in Afghanistan under former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. He also served as the director of the CIA between 1991 and 1993.

CENTCOM disputes Air Force account of attempted hijacking at Kabul airport during Afghanistan evacuation

Oren Liebermann

Washington (CNN)US Central Command, which oversaw the US evacuation from Afghanistan, disputed an Air Force account of an attempted hijacking of a commercial flight from Kabul international airport during the final weeks of the evacuation from the country.

In a statement to CNN on Thursday afternoon, a spokeswoman for Central Command said they are "unaware" of an attempted hijacking.

"I am unaware of any attempt to hijack a plane at Hamid Karzai International airport," said US Central Command spokeswoman LT Josie Lynne Lenny in a statement Thursday afternoon.

"During the Afghanistan evacuation mission, an intel tip indicated the possibility of a plot to highjack a particular flight that was preparing to depart the airfield. Ground traffic controllers diverted the plane to a safe location on the airfield where security forces boarded the plane and determined that there was no active attempt to hijack the aircraft."

The Air Force account which detailed an attempted hijacking of a commercial airliner was published Tuesday on the Air Force's website and was written by Lt. Col. Kristen Duncan, a public affairs officer for the 23rd Wing, which deployed to Afghanistan this summer. During the evacuation operation, as US Air Force C-17s began steadily arriving at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Duncan wrote that airmen from the personnel recovery task force began tracking passengers departing the airport.

Violence Undermines China’s Plans in Afghanistan, Risks Luring it Into Quagmire

Paul D. Shinkman

China's top national security decisionmakers are stunned by a devastating suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan last week reportedly carried out by a Uighur Muslim, sources say, provoking Beijing to either disrupt its march toward greater investments in the Taliban government or to commit further to the quagmire that has stymied other superpowers for decades.

The Islamic State group's affiliate in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-K, quickly claimed responsibility for the deadly attack at a Shiite Muslim mosque in Kunduz on Friday. But in an even more brazen and rare move, it also provided a crucial detail about the attacker, specifying that the bomber was of the ethnicity that largely originates from China's restive Xinjiang Province. Beijing's attempts to stamp out violent extremists among its Uighur population has emerged as perhaps its most sensitive problem at home and nearby, as shown through the lengths it's willing to go to quash the threat it perceives.

19 October 2021

AfPak Takes On New Meaning with the Rise of the Taliban

Dr. James M. Dorsey

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The attacks on Kabul’s international airport by ISIS’s Afghan affiliate raise questions suggesting a possible paradigm shift in the drivers and expanding geography of political violence.

The attacks by ISIS’s Afghan affiliate on Kabul’s international airport called into question the Taliban’s ability to maintain security and keep a lid on the activities of the multiple militant groups in Afghanistan. Long at war with ISIS, the Taliban have promised to ensure that neither it nor other groups with which it maintains better relations will be allowed to use the Central Asian state for cross-border attacks in the region.

That may be easier said than done. Al-Qaeda, which launched the most spectacular and successful of all jihadist attacks two decades ago in the US, may turn out to be the least of the Taliban’s jihadist worries.

G20 Will Aid Afghanistan—But Won’t Recognize the Taliban

Trevor Filseth

Following an emergency summit, the Group of 20 (G20) nations have committed to aiding Afghanistan in order to stave off the nation’s impending humanitarian crisis—acknowledging reluctantly that doing so would require cooperation with, though not necessarily recognition of, the Taliban.

The EU, which opened the discussions, promised $1.2 billion in aid for the country, as well as for its neighboring states to address the cost of harboring Afghan refugees. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have fled the country since the Taliban takeover on August 15; while many refugees were evacuated in the U.S. military’s airlift, a substantial number also crossed into Pakistan, Iran, and Tajikistan, straining the neighboring countries’ social service programs.

The virtual summit was attended by President Joe Biden, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, as well as a handful of other European leaders. President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China opted not to attend, sending high-level officials in their place.