Afghanistan News and Discussions

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  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    From burqas to fatigues

    Khatool Muhammadzai loves martial arts, underwent commando training in pre-Taliban Afghanistan, and has logged 500 official jumps as the only female paratrooper in the country's post-Taliban military.

    But the middle-aged general, Afghanistan's highest-ranking woman officer, wants to be known as a peacemaker.

    Muhammadzai, who first served in Afghanistan's Moscow-backed military in the 1980s, rejoined the armed forces after the Taliban was overthrown in 2001. Today, through her work at the Defense Ministry on military education and training issues, Muhammadzai has emerged as a model of Afghanistan's ambitious plan toattract women into its military ranks and to raise the profile of women soldiers.

    Women can play a key role in the government's efforts to build a modern military and defense force. But recruiting is no easy task in Afghanistan's deeply conservative society, where many don't even approve of women leaving their homes, let alone joining ranks in traditionally male-dominated organizations like the military.

    For Muhammadzai, the question is elementary.

    "It's everybody's duty to serve their country, to protect it," the general says. "Why shouldn't Afghan women get involved? So many women from foreign countries are in Afghanistan as a part of international coalition troops and to protect our nation.

    "For us, Afghanistan is our own home. Why shouldn't we serve our own country?"

    Muhammadzai concedes, however, that despite her rank she still encounters people who are not ready to accept a woman in uniform. But with their numbers on the rise - some 1,000 women are currently serving in the Afghan armed forces, up from a starting point of basically zero - women soldiers are positioned to be not only peacemakers but groundbreakers.

    Still in harm's way
    Last month, 30 fresh recruits graduated to the Afghan military after completing six months of training at a Kabul-based academy set up exclusively for women.

    There they mastered the types of weapons and military vehicles they would depend upon on the front line, although there is little chance of them being deployed into combat.

    Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi explains that the academy is intended to train women for a variety of jobs within the army and defense structures. Many will end up behind desks in administrative posts, facilitating communications or logistical support, or working in army canteens and hospitals.

    But just because most women soldiers are not destined for combat does not mean they will be kept out of harm's way.

    "There are a number of problems that cannot be resolved without women officers," says Jamila Mujahid, a Kabul-based journalist who covers women's issues. "For instance, searching private houses, security checks alongside roads, streets. These all are currently being performed by men, but we need women working alongside them because Afghanistan's traditions and culture simply do not allow men to check women's bodies or women's bags. Only women can do this because it preserves women's dignity. That's why it has had a good effect so far."

    Regarding invasive security checks at private homes, Mujahid notes that many Afghans are more relaxed when such searches are conducted by women. And when it comes to more personal inspections, Mujahid says simply: "How can a male soldier search a woman wearing a burqa? It's out of the question here."

    Eventually, Defense Ministry spokesman Azimi says, the plan is to open training academies for women in provincial areas. But that plan depends on attracting sufficient numbers of women willing to enroll, a difficult task that gets more difficult the farther you venture into conservative, rural Afghanistan.

    'So many problems'
    Hanifa is from Kabul, like most of her fellow recent graduates of the Defense Ministry's academy. She says even if some girls dream their whole lives of joining the army, their decision is not likely to be met with family approval.

    Wearing a green military uniform, her head covered with a black scarf, Hanifa recalls that everyone in her family was initially against her enrolling in the military course.

    "There were so many problems with my family over my choice," says Hanifa. "But I insisted, and they came to support me in the end."

    Some, like Hanifa, were inspired by the thought of wearing their country's uniform. Some were encouraged by relatives already serving in the army. And others simply chose the military as a way of making a living.

    Whereas women working for other government agencies can expect to earn around $100 a month, those working in the armed forces can earn at least $350 per month, according to General Abdulhadi Aimak, a former security chief of northern Konduz Province.

    "Economic incentives are very important to attract women to [the armed] forces," he says, noting that women soldiers enjoy other perks, too, such as transport.

    Young academy graduate Hanifa says she had to weigh all the risks and benefits that go along with being a woman in uniform in Afghanistan.

    Soldiers and police workers are frequently targeted by the Taliban. Without giving an exact figure, Azimi says the number of Afghan soldiers killed by the enemy was considerably higher in 2010 than the previous year.

    For women, the risks can be even greater. Taliban militants frequently target female students, teachers, journalists - basically anyone who studies outside their homes. In 2008, the most high-profile police woman in Afghanistan, police Colonel Malalai Kakar, was assassinated while heading to work in the southern town of Kandahar.

    The Defense Ministry says it tries as much as it can to protect women in uniform.

    "We try to place them in jobs where they can go home after work. They are not put on duty overnight," Azimi says.

    But General Muhammadzai, who says she get frequent death threats from "forces who don't want Afghan women to have their rightful place in society," says the reward is greater than the risk.

    "We cannot and should not wait until these threats, risks, and problems disappear," she says. "We have to fight to overcome them, to build a better country."
     
  2. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    US Republicans to target Afghan withdrawal timetable

     
  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Republicans want troops in Afghanistan to stay


    WASHINGTON: Republican lawmakers who now control the US House of Representatives said on Thursday that they would try to prevent President Barack Obama from withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan as he planned.

    Congressman Buck McKeon, who will now take over the House Armed Services Committee from the Democrats, has also announced his party’s plan for Afghanistan and Iraq. He said that under the Republicans the committee’s top priority would be to continue the US military presence in Afghanistan. Mr McKeon pledged to work directly with Gen David Petraeus, the US commander in Afghanistan, to commit more equipment and resources to the war effort.

    “America remains a nation at war,” Mr McKeon said in a statement. “More than 150,000 of our sons and daughters are deployed around the globe in the fight against Al Qaeda and its terrorist allies. The top priority of the Armed Services Committee will be to provide those brave fighters the resources and support they need to succeed in their missions and return home safely.”

    He announced a three-point Republican defence policy: “Ensuring our troops deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world have the equipment, resources, authorities, training, and time they need to successfully complete their missions and return home; building on the Armed Services Committee’s strong bipartisan tradition of providing our fighters and their families with the resources and support they need; and, investing in the capabilities and force structure needed to protect the United States from tomorrow’s threats, while mandating fiscal responsibility, accountability, and transparency from the Department of Defence.”

    The Republicans also vowed to adopt a National Defence Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2011 to provide more funds for US troops.

    Upon taking office in 2009, President Obama quickly established Afghanistan as his war, dramatically escalating the US presence there. The Republicans strongly supported him on the issue but disagreed with a plan he announced later to start a gradual withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan from July 2011.

    “You cannot tell the enemy when you’re leaving, when you’re in warfare, and expect your strategy to prevail,” said Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate.

    In Tuesday’s midterm elections, the Republicans captured 243 out of 435 seats while 192 went to the Democrats. The Republicans increased their strength in the Senate too, seizing 47 seats.

    Although the Democrats maintained their majority in the 100-seat Senate by retaining 52 seats, they did so because only 37 seats were up for election.
     
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Afghanistan: Mapping the Insurgency

    by Varun Vira
    November 11, 2010

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    The armed conflict with Taliban insurgents and the Karzai government with its international backers for control of the Afghan state is a ‘hybrid[1] internationalized instrastate struggle’[2] playing out on various levels and with both sides receiving external support. It includes a social level with issues of ethnic and religious identity struggles as well as a search for various groups to reform their political and economic marginalization from predatory elites. The conflict is intensified on a global level by a global war on terrorism and by regional actors in a struggle for strategic influence. Regardless, it is critical to remember that these structural dynamics manifest themselves in a predominantly local context. A myriad of complex local interactions form in essence thousands of “micro-insurgencies” that coalesce to form the dyadic conflict.[3] This best explains the dynamic allegiances of Afghan groups shifting to and from those who best satisfy their communal, developmental, political and ideological needs.
    The incidence of violent conflict has registered an alarming up-tick. As of mid September 2010, coalition KIA has exceeded 2009’s record high of 521, itself a 77% increase over 2008.[4] Civilian casualties registered a 31% increase as of mid-2010, although the Taliban accounted for the overwhelming majority as coalition forces tightened their rules of engagement.[5] Meanwhile various forms of structural violence persist with the HDI Index ranking Afghanistan 181st out of 182 countries, with abysmal rankings on virtually every metric of human wellbeing.[6]
    The Taliban
    Today at least 25,000 insurgents are suspected to be active in Afghanistan, up from a few thousand in 2003.[7] They directly control 4% of Afghanistan with influence and presence in another 30%, a figure rivaling the Karzai government.[8] Officially, they are engaged in a revolutionary struggle for control of the state guided by “the most conservative village Islam, with Deobandi doctrines, with a stress on the importance of rituals and modes of behavior.”[9] This religious emphasis has multiple benefits. It is a source of identity-formation for their cadres, a projected incompatibility between puritanical values and the supposed moral corruption of international and government forces as a means of conflict mobilization.[10] It has also contributed to a zero-sum thinking that sees little utility in compromise or negotiation while they retain the upper hand on the battlefield.
    The Taliban have evolved into a sophisticated insurgency by purposely decentralizing their organizational structure and forming “personal networks formed around charismatic leaders”[11] under the overall command of Mullah Omar and his Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s highest leadership council. Some have argued that Omar’s prolonged absence in the public sphere means only a superficial sense of fealty to his rule now exists. A poll of 42 Taliban militants in Kandahar found a “fascinating lack of loyalty” towards Omar, with over half of respondents believing he was neither required for their war, nor necessarily the best one to lead it either.[12] Others disagree, believing Omar to be the glue that holds the Taliban together, without whom they would “surely collapse into a welter of tribes and factions.”[13] More likely it seems that Omar today is an arbitrator between the disparate networks that subscribe to his authority. His diktats, while carrying immense weight, are not always fully adhered to by a new guard of hyper-radicalized militants.[14]
    In a major structural change, a senior commander estimated today that 80% of Taliban fighters are in their late teens or early 20s and that their intensified ideological indoctrination and formative years spent at war have bred a recklessness and contempt for authority that is like “earth and sky” when compared to their anti-Soviet predecessors.[15] As captured journalist David Rohde found to his discomfit, his captors in the Haqqani syndicate, whom he had assumed to be “Al Qaeda Lite,” were actually young, fervent ideologues from radical madrassas professing global jihad.[16] This evolution has also contributed to the decline of command and control mechanisms with effects on conduct, control and discipline. For example, a young militant in Helmand casually dismisses former overall Taliban military commander, Mullah Baradar: “I’m here risking my neck fighting the Americans and he’s eating chicken and pilau in Pakistan… We are here on the ground with our Kalashnikovs and RPGs and we live and die by our own quick judgments. We don’t need to listen to anyone who is not out here putting their life on the line.” [17]
    Despite these changes, the departure from a hierarchical mode of battlefield organization has not meant the destruction of a sophisticated centralized apparatus guiding overall strategy and policy. On the contrary, key elements such as impressive intelligence and propaganda networks, a defined code of conduct[18] and significant civil resources to facilitate ‘shadow administration’ are often deployed with great sophistication to precede and augment local autonomous military commands. Recruitment has tapped into various sectors of society to create a “complex adaptive system”[19] that amalgamates the efforts of insurgent groups, transnational terrorist outfits as well as criminal groups, co-opted tribes, local commanders and security elements complicit in the insurgency. This diversity allows for the inclusion of many ideological leanings and alliances, often competing with each other for dominance. The Haqqanis in Loya Paktiya, for example, cooperate with Taliban grand strategy while simultaneously competing for power and influence in certain provinces.[20] They also maintain a close relationship with Pakistani intelligence agencies (notably ISI) in contrast to other networks that resent Pakistani intrusions.[21]
    Such a broad jihadi umbrella also allows for the incorporation of various differing motivations at the individual level. A “semi-retired Helmand Taliban commander” describes three echelons of Taliban rank and file; those “who just have problems with the government…. who joined just for power, and the real jihadis who just want to become martyrs.”[22] The poll of Kandahari Taliban found a similar array of professed motivations. Some saw themselves in a religious revolutionary struggle to reshape Afghan political structure into one more Islamic: “Even if you give me so much money that I can’t spend it in my entire lifetime… would continue my fight because I do not want non-Muslims and the people of other religions in my country.” Others spoke of relatives or acquaintances being killed by foreign forces, some of a perceived moral corrosion while most hinted at a strong, religious-nationalist zeal to expel the ‘infidels who enslaved the government.”[23] Also interesting is the 80% who admitted to personal involvement in the opium trade and bemoaned the Western assault on their livelihoods.[24]
    Karzai/ISAF
    NATO-ISAF forces, now numbering 119,819,[25] are the backbone of military capabilities to support the Karzai government in areas of security, development and reconstruction. The official coalition mandate, now diluted as a result of political pressures, is to create a strong central government with institutions at least capable of combating Taliban forces and denying transnational terrorists sanctuary. However a failure to create adequate governance through the Karzai government has been a key contributor to anarchic conditions prompting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to remark that coalition and Afghan forces may end up being “outgoverned, rather than outgunned.”[26] Yet, despite staggering missteps towards an increasingly fragmented state, 62% of Afghans continue to support an international force presence and 70% identify the Taliban as the greatest danger to the country.[27]
    On paper, the Karzai government and its international backers have created one of the world’s most centralized democracies[28] without adequate resources to extend Kabul’s writ towards the periphery. This radical attempt to transform socio-political structures is especially daunting given governance having historically revolved around a “segmentary kinship system,”[29] with a local sense of identification. To combat the shortfall in central authority, power is outsourced to a variety of regional, and autonomous powerbrokers, often powerful politicians, warlords and criminal warlords all at once. To sit atop this factional pyramid, President Karzai’s centralized model is useful. With the power to appoint every significant official in the executive branch from provincial governors down to the subprovincial level[30], Karzai controls the federal dispensation of patronage, the single most valuable piece of political real estate. Such official patronage at present allows for various profit-making opportunities including siphoning off tax revenues and provincial expenditures, criminal drug, extortion and smuggling rackets along with lucrative security contracts secured with state-subsidized personal militias.[31]
    This parallel economy has incentivized the rise of a variety of ‘conflict entrepreneurs’[32] who use ethnic patronage and extensive independent militias to coercively entrench their power and relevance. The 2005 parliamentary elections saw 40 of those elected associated with armed groups, 24 affiliated with criminal gangs, 17 drug traffickers, and 19 facing serious human-rights charges.[33] The September 2010 parliamentary elections continues the trend with only one female (sister of the ANA Chief of Staff) feeling secure enough to run for office in Khost[34] and widespread vote-rigging in Loya Paktiya leading to a vote described as “doomed already and fixed before it starts.”[35] Even in provinces relatively removed from the insurgency such as Badakshan, “routes and border crossings… correspond to the map of political power groupings,”[36] bad news to any aspirant without his hand in the cross-border smuggling trade.
    Such pervasive abuse of official authority has incentivized government stakeholders to fight for a continued status quo, although fighting the war for “greed rather than grievance.”[37] However their failure to meet basic communal needs has also been manna for Taliban recruiters and significantly narrowed the legitimacy of the Karzai government, ceding political space to insurgents. A survey by Integrity Watch Afghanistan revealed disturbing statistics: 67% of those polled admitted they had not sought a single government service in the past year while 50% admitted to seeking out non-state justice providers, essentially legitimizing insurgent structures.[38] The extent of corruption and misgovernance is best demonstrated in the capital flight out of Kabul Airport, estimated at $3.65bn annually, more than a quarter of Afghan GDP and potentially more than the government officially collects in tax and customs revenues.[39]
    A doctrinal shift towards counterinsurgency has also failed to reap adequate dividends to date. Created with the understanding that “reconstruction and development in the absence of security for the population have little enduring value,” efforts have been made to unfold a ‘government in a box’ after coalition-led military offensives. The reality so far is grim, as voiced by Lt. Col. Peter Benchoff, a 101st Airborne battalion commander who notes that months after an offensive into Kandahar, “Security sucks. Development? Nothing substantial. Information campaign? Nobody believes us. Governance? We’ve had one hourlong visit by a government official in the last 2 ½ months”[40] Kinetic operations too have failed to degrade Taliban strength and support. Special Forces operations are at their highest tempo since the war began[41], as are drone strikes against high-value targets in Pakistan[42] but key metrics of improved Afghan collaboration such as IED turn-in ratios continue to decline from 4.5% in early 2009 to 2.2% today.[43]
    The Conflict
    At the local level, various sources of discontent persist, including victimization under predatory elites and an official failure to deliver on expected economic improvements or degrade illegal enterprises. Moving away from the conception of the insurgency drawing strength from a disenfranchised populace, another interpretation is that of an ethnic conflict pitting Northern Tajik/Uzbek powerbrokers against the Pashtun south. There is some merit to this interpretation given the existence of an acute and entrenched ethnic security dilemma. All parties are armed and many non-Pashtun communities who suffered under Taliban rule are allergic to the idea of Taliban resurrection. This is particularly true of the Hazaras, but also large segments of the Tajik and Uzbek populace. They are not so easily pigeonholed, however, as individual ethnic concerns have the potential to be overridden by other status concerns, among those marginalized by the current power structure. Such an example is Hazara commander Sedaqat in Daikundi, who briefly flirted with the government before rejoining the Taliban and kidnapping two French nationals,[44] or the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which helps give the Taliban a local face in the North.[45]
    Today ethnic cleavages have grown increasingly pronounced as a direct result of elite posturing and government decisions. The integration of former Northern Alliance commanders into the post-Taliban structure led to fears of Pashtun marginalization and the creeping de-legitimization of a Karzai government perceived as window-dressing for an Uzbek/Tajik coalition. An embattled Karzai further entrenched ethnic powers in the 2009 presidential elections, by allying with various ethno-warlords, including Uzbek Abdul Rashid Dostum, Tajik Ismail Khan and Mohammed Fahim and Hazara Mohammed Mohaqqeq.[46] Despite all the aforementioned having been implicated in various crimes, including wartime atrocities, involvement in criminal enterprises and provincial mismanagement and corruption, their command of ethnic bases made them crucial electoral allies. ISAF-NATO are also seen as complicit in these oppressive power-structures. Not all Afghans can be as understanding as a Pashtun leader in Balkh when he stated, “America does not support Dostum so that he can loot people’s homes. We understand that”[47]
    The willingness to tolerate armed factional leaders in exchange for a basic modicum of security has greatly weakened the democratization process and ordaining the prevailing perception of state institutions as elements to be “captured and manipulated by … factions that can summon up the guns and money to do so.”[48] It does not help that many of these men have used their official posts to dispense patronage for ethnic compatriots and entrench their hegemony in institutional structures. Under now Vice President and former Defense Minister Fahim’s guidance, the Afghan National Army (ANA) counts 41% of enlisted personnel as Tajiks, vastly exceeding the Eikenberry guidelines of 25%.[49] Tajiks also command 70% of ANA battalions, and the recent Pashtun appointee to ANA Chief of Staff is believed to command the loyalty of only a single brigade commander, while Fahim through his networks is assured the support of an estimated six of eleven brigade commanders and twelve of forty six battalion commanders.[50]
    Interestingly, perhaps the strongest opponents of an ethnic interpretation to the conflict are the Taliban themselves, who take great pains to portray themselves in religious-nationalist terms as a pan-Islamic party rejecting both tribe and ethnicity as the “standard-bearers… of the Afghan-Pashtun vendetta against the Americans”[51] Yet in many provinces, they have benefited from leveraging existing ethnic grievances as in districts in Wardak and Logar provinces where they have supported the Pashtun Kuchi nomads against the Hazaras.[52] Directly the conflict has little bearing on the insurgency, being related to historical tensions over grazing rights, but the exploitation of ethnic cleavages allows the Taliban to make inroads into districts they would otherwise be a marginalized force.
    Despite the Taliban being predominantly Pashtun (see map) and often the “authentic voice of rural Pashtun conservatism,”[53] it is not true that all Pashtuns are Taliban. Powerful Pashtun confederations such as the Durrani Zirak, composed of Karzai’s Popolzai tribe and the Barakzai and Alokzai tribes, all of whom have benefited in the post-2001 Afghan order, are vociferously anti-Taliban. Their rise has, however, marginalized other tribes, such as Helmand’s Ishaqzai, who have found themselves on the wrong side of an unequal competition for government resources and control of the drugs trade. Capitalizing on this marginalization, the Taliban’s Helmand shadow administration consciously elevates Ishaqzai and relies upon them as a key source of provincial recruitment. Similarly, in other provinces, the systematic undermining of tribal identity by various armed groups over the past few decades has meant that today tribes are no longer independent actors, but rather an “arena in which political competition takes place,”[54] including recruitment by ‘tribal entrepreneurs’ from the government and the Taliban.[55]
    In many ways the conflict was developed and catalyzed on the global level. The bipolar struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States set the stage for a large-scale proxy-war that destroyed institutions and set the stage for the intra-factional anarchy that was to pave the path for the Taliban. The subsequent 9/11 attacks whose inspirational genesis emanated out of Afghanistan provided the overarching rationale for coalition involvement in Afghanistan centering around the denial of safe havens for Islamist militants with a penchant for global jihad. Today with domestic political pressure intensifying and wider global issues requiring attention, the Obama Administration appears to have diluted its goals from transformative nation-building to basic conflict limitation mechanisms centered around the building up of indigenous Afghan military capacity while broadening aerial strike campaigns against high-value insurgent targets.
    The regional context, too, is a key accelerant, particularly today as the perception of ISAF-NATO as a transient regional actor pushes regional actors to establish positions on the post-American Afghan chessboard. On one side is a loose alliance between India and Iran, and on the other Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which admittedly is a vast oversimplification ignoring diverging ambitions and tactics for each of these stakeholders. While the Saudis and Iranians are battling for regional leadership, the Indians and Pakistanis are battling largely to contain each other and to control access to Central Asian energy corridors. For the Saudi-Pakistani alliance, Sunni Taliban primacy offers the best means to achieve their interests, while the Indians and Iranians prefer an anti-Taliban bloc drawn from former Northern Alliance non-Pashtun groups. Peripheral actors such as China and Russia also share concerns on a spillover of radicalization, but neither are likely to directly participate. Instead, China is likely to depend on Pakistani preeminence in mitigating its security worries and delivering access to economic resources.
    Most worrying is the Pakistani strategic calculus that foresees a precipitous Western withdrawal and thus remains interested in Taliban primacy as the most potent means to ward off fears of Indian encirclement. Covert support continues to be extensive with a recent report suggesting that retired ISI ‘contractors’ are represented on the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s highest leadership body. The ISI allegedly also remains actively involved at the operational level with extensive support in financing, munitions and training provision as well as assistance with cross-border movement and the provision of external sanctuary.[56] Fears of rising Indian influence as the largest regional donor to the Afghan nation-building project[57] have ignited proxy war with various attacks on Indian interests including dual attacks on its embassy in Kabul. Many observers, including the CIA, have alleged that these attacks are traceable back to the ISI and conducted on their behalf by local militant proxies, most often the Haqqanis and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.[58]
    Meanwhile Iranian influence has largely centered on eastern provinces such as Herat where it shares ethnic kinship. It has committed development aid and collaborated with Indian development projects[59] and anti-drugs efforts.[60] Iran paradoxically may be facing difficulties in reconciling its dislike of the U.S. with that of the Sunni Taliban. It has established an anti-Taliban beachhead in eastern Afghanistan by arming and supporting local warlords, employing sizeable economic and cultural outreach programs[61] to advance its soft power influence and making cash payments to curry favor amongst the highest echelons of Afghan governance.[62] Iran has also been accused by coalition officials of indirectly supporting the Taliban, including allegedly training Taliban fighters in the use of anti-aircraft missiles[63] and offering Iraqi-style EFPs to insurgents.[64] Therefore, unlike India, Iranian ambitions might be best served by an American withdrawal, removing both a threat to itself and what it considers a key source of inspiration for Taliban militants. The Saudis are primarily interested in rolling back Iranian gains and ensuring Sunni primacy with themselves as facilitators and “unifiers.”[65] As one of only three governments that recognized the Taliban government, and sharing some element of religious solidarity with the Taliban, the Saudis are also sympathetic to reconciliation measures that include the Taliban, being they believe they can ‘peel off’ the hardcore global jihadists such as al-Qaeda from the broader Taliban movement.[66]
     
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Afghan Buddhist relics: Archaeologists issue warning


    [​IMG]
    Afghan archaeologists say they are racing against time to salvage a major 7th Century religious site unearthed along the famous Silk Road.

    They have warned that the 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery will be largely destroyed once work at a mine begins.

    A Chinese company is eager to develop what they say is the world's second-biggest unexploited copper mine which lies beneath the ruins at the site.

    The site is located at Mes Aynak, in the eastern province of Logar.

    Archaeologists fear that the monastery - complete with domed shrines known as stupas - will probably be largely destroyed once work at the mine begins.

    [​IMG]
    This wooden Buddha statue is estimated to be about 1,400 years old


    Correspondents say that the mine is the centrepiece of China's drive to invest in Afghanistan, as Kabul tries to re-energise an economy still blighted by the ongoing war.

    Beijing's $3.5bn ($2.2bn) stake in the mine is believed to be one of the largest foreign investments in Afghanistan by far and means that China has a head start when it comes to negotiating future deals to exploit the country's largely untapped mineral wealth, including iron, gold and cobalt.

    Correspondents say that the Afghan government stands to reap a potential $1.2bn (£755m) a year in revenue from the mine, as well as create much-needed jobs.

    The ruins were discovered as labourers excavated the site on behalf of the Chinese government-backed China Metallurgical Group Corp (MGC).

    'Minimal'
    Hanging over the discovery, correspondents say, is the memory of the Buddhas of Bamiyan - Buddhist statues towering up to 180ft (54.86m) high in central Afghanistan that were dynamited in 2001 by the Taliban, who considered them symbols of paganism.

    Because no-one wants to be blamed for similarly razing history at Mes Aynak, an informal understanding between MGC and the Afghan government was reached which initially gave archaeologists three years for a salvage excavation.

    But the archaeologists say they are now under pressure to reduce that deadline before the end of 2010 - which will not be enough time for the relics to be fully preserved.

    "The site is so massive that it's easily a 10-year campaign of archaeology," US archaeologist Laura Tedesco told the Associated Press news agency.

    "Three years may be just enough time only to document what's here."

    Another archaeologist told AP that the salvage effort was piecemeal and "minimal", held back by lack of funds and personnel.

    About 15 Afghan archaeologists, three French advisers and 24 labourers are working at the site - a far smaller team than is normally needed.

    The monastery complex has been dug out, revealing hallways and rooms decorated with frescoes and filled with clay and stone statues of standing and reclining Buddhas, some as high as 10ft (3m).

    More than 150 statues have been found so far.
     
  6. Patriot

    Patriot Senior Member Senior Member

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    Have (infinite) war, will travel
    By Pepe Escobar

    Anyone aware enough to think that Washington's goal is not to "win" the unwinnable AfPak quagmire but to keep playing its bloody infinite war game forever is now eligible for a personal stimulus package (in gold).

    Let's review the recent evidence. All of a sudden, the White House, the Pentagon and the United States House of Representatives have all embarked on a new narrative: forget major US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2011; let's move the goalpost to 2014.

    Then wily Afghan President Hamid Karzai tells the Washington Post he does not want all these US troops roaming around "his" country no more, adding please, stop killing my people with special-forces night ops - a euphemism for Pentagon terrorism.

    General David “I'm always positioning myself for 2012” Petraeus is "astonished". How could he not be? After all, Karzai wanted to give the boot to private contractors - undisputed AfPak champions of false-flag black ops - then he gave up, as he might give up again on the night raids. As for Petraeus, he only wants the best of both worlds; kick up the hell-raising, as in drone hits and night ops (who cares about collateral damage?) and sit back and talk with the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence-created Taliban.

    Incidentally, Petraeus' counter-insurgency myth has been buried in the plains south of the Hindu Kush (not that many in the US noted). The counter-insurgency (COIN) myth implies that Washington, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and what passes for "Afghan security forces" could "take, clear, hold and build" areas previously controlled by the Taliban. They could not accomplish any of this even in Marjah, insistently sold by the Pentagon and compliant corporate media as a success, not to mention much bigger Kandahar.

    Former US secretary of state
    Colin Powell has just weighed in on CNN, admitting the US won't be "pulling out 100,000 troops. I don't know how many troops we'll pull out." Powell also said that "inside the national security team", the whole thing is "conditions-based". Thus "conditions" may be bent to suit any narrative. Sharp noses may immediately detect a whiff of Vietnam, and Powell had to insist that Afghanistan is not that country. Well, whether Karzai is increasingly becoming the new Ngo Dinh Diem is beside the point; his assassination would not solve anything anyway.

    And all this while a 71-page Council on Foreign Relations report written by 25 "experts" gets a lot of traction in Washington. The report finds that the war costs a fortune, may not serve US interests and it's not "clear that the effort will succeed". Do people get paid to conclude this? The report also meekly suggests that depending on President Barack Obama's December strategic AfPak review, the US "should move quickly to recalculate its military presence in Afghanistan
    ". It won't.

    Let's try following the money. The AfPak war costs roughly US $7 billion a month - money that Washington needs to borrow from Beijing. Afghanistan in itself costs $65 billion a year - not counting NATO and humanitarian aid. Afghanistan's gross domestic product is only $22 billion. So Washington is spending three times the wealth of a whole country just to occupy it. Money for nothing. Properly invested, by this time Afghanistan would be the new Singapore.

    AfPak costs nearly $100 billion a year. Surrealist as it may seem, polls indicate that for most Americans the US federal budget deficit is not a priority. No wonder no election candidates on November 2 emitted a peep about the ridiculously expensive quagmire.

    Let's face it. Whoever is writing this screenplay deserves an Oscar.


    All you need is NATO

    According to the official narrative, technically NATO only left its (cavernous) building in Europe for Afghanistan under the organization's Article 5 (emphasizing collective defense) to help Washington fight George W Bush's "war on terror" against al-Qaeda. Yet even somnolent diplomats in Brussels know that Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri crossed from eastern Afghanistan to Pakistan in early December 2001, and disappeared into a black void.

    This would never prevent NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen - ahead of the NATO summit this weekend in Lisbon - stressing that the war, well, goes on forever, as in "there is no alternative to continuing military operations". NATO's council secretary Edmund Whiteside didn't mince his words, "Afghanistan will be a very long military venture." And German Brigadier General Josef Blotz insists: "No timetable has been set for withdrawal of coalition troops."

    The "strategy" of the 152,000-soldier, 50-nation, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan ranks as a thesis on Monty Python geopolitics; to pledge a tsunami of euros for Karzai's shenanigans while forcing member countries to unleash ever more troops into the Taliban meat grinder - even though public opinion all across Europe says out loud "we can't take this anymore".

    At least the commander of British forces in southern Afghanistan, Major General Nick Carter, was sensible enough to stress that NATO would only know if it was "winning" by June 2011, "when the fighting season begins again" and everyone can "compare Taliban attacks with this year". Wait for another eight months and pray for 2014; that's the "strategy". Talk about on-the-ground intelligence.

    NATO is absolutely useless at infiltrating the historic Taliban - also known as the Quetta shura, based in Balochistan (they cannot even point a drone to where Mullah Omar is). NATO cannot infiltrate the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. And NATO cannot infiltrate the Hezb-i-Islami network, controlled by former prime minister
    and bomber of Kabul (in the mid-1990s) Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, based in and around the strategic Khyber Pass.

    The Pakistani ISI will always align with the Taliban under any circumstances - because this is Islamabad's way of protecting its "strategic depth" against India. The ISI will always insist on having the Taliban at the same table with Washington, otherwise any semblance of "talks" will be dead on arrival.

    Islamabad's dream scenario is the Taliban, the Haqqanis and Hezb-i-Islami controlling southern and eastern Afghanistan. That would also be instrumental in preventing another one of Islamabad's primal fears - that disgruntled Pashtuns will unite and go all out to form an across-the-artificial-border Pashtunistan.

    The key to all this mess is not Obama, Karzai, the Pentagon or NATO. It's which way General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, number 29 on Forbes' list of the most powerful people in the world, will see the wind blowing. As much as during the Bush "war on terror" years, when Islamabad was ruled from Washington, during the Obama AfPak years the White House is a hostage of Islamabad.

    But for the Pentagon/NATO axis, Pakistan is just a drop in the ocean. Next Friday and Saturday, at the Lisbon summit, the world will be presented with a NATO-goes-global narrative. Team Pentagon/NATO will be convinced to abandon its privileged outpost of infinite war - Afghanistan - over its dead nuclear bombs. After all, Washington/Brussels has implanted a precious foothold in the heart of Eurasia - arguably for life.

    The Lisbon summit, moreover, will see NATO formally adopting a new strategic concept - which essentially means keeping its nuclear arsenal in perpetuity, including US nuclear bombs stationed in Europe. You know, those nuclear bombs that Iran does not have (but Pakistan and India, not to mention Israel, do). Paraphrasing the great Burt Bacharach, what the world needs now, is NATO sweet NATO.

    Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and RedZone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obamadoes Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

    He may be reached at [email protected].







    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LK18Df02.html
     
  7. Patriot

    Patriot Senior Member Senior Member

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    Obama’s AfPak Review should emphasise on Peace Talks with the Taliban

    Ali Ahmed

    [​IMG]Obama’s review of the AfPak policy is due this December. He would like to stick to his schedule, outlined at West Point last December, of having the departure from Afghanistan ‘begin’ in July 2011. By no means had he implied then that it would be anything but a measured departure, the commentary of critics of a US ‘exit’ notwithstanding. It is hoped that with an ANA trained to levels of military credibility, NATO would be able to draw down and hand over the responsibility by 2014, as required by Karzai and as stands decided at the NATO Lisbon summit. Even as the surge reaches culmination point, this can only be made possible through a more hands-on approach to the peace overtures to the Taliban currently underway.

    Reports of a peace track have been around for over two years now. Earlier, the Saudis had figured as peace brokers. The scene shifted to UN peace initiatives under Kai Eide, but was aborted by the arrest by Pakistanis of their Taliban interlocutor, Mullah Baradar. This summer the peace jirga approved the overtures by President Karzai currently underway. Tacit support of the US for the process is evident from logistic support and safe passage being given to enable presence of the insurgent representatives. The Pakistanis have also chipped in by arranging access of the Haqqani faction to Kabul. A heartening report is of Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami willing to end the bloodletting for a price.

    Peace deals in the offing testify partially to success of the ‘surge’. The idea behind the increase of about 30,000 troops over the past two years has been to militarily pressure the Taliban. Fissures within the Taliban in terms of differing motivations, varying intensity in ties with the core Taliban, and distance from al Qaeda were to be exploited to whittle it down. The Taliban are over 30,000 strong. No fissures have shown up among them so far that could be usefully exploited. How to bring the Mullah Omar Taliban round remains the key question.

    The Taliban has expectedly vowed to ensure that the exit would be sooner than 2014 and an unceremonious one at that. Getting at them militarily has proven difficult, sitting as they are on the Pakistani side of ‘AfPak’. This year the Pakistan military had the floods bail them out from taking action against these sanctuaries. The threat of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an ally of Taliban comprising both Punjabis and Pushtuns, expanding the war into Pakistani cities stays the Pakistani hand. In any case, the military are ‘hedging’, in order to have some say in the post NATO dispensation in Kabul using their good offices with the Taliban if accommodated in power in an exit deal with the US.

    The fact that the Taliban has cannon-fodder available in the Pakistani hinterland and amongst Pushtuns radicalized by war indicates that attrition would have to continue over a considerable period. This would likely be at the price of rising distaste with the increasingly unpopular war in the US. The exhaustion of the Europeans is already self-evident. Therefore, eliminating the Taliban does not appear feasible. This leave the US with two options: continuing down the military route or privileging direct peace talks.

    The military prong, having shifted under McChrystal to a classical counter insurgency, is not designed to produce quick results. The ANA is being trained to par to bring these about over a period of perhaps three to five years. The US is to scale back its operations and presence progressively as it outsources military operations to the ANA. The ‘Afghan on Afghan’ strategy smacks of ‘divide and rule’. As a strategy, while it enables a US-NATO ‘exit’, it is of no benefit for the region to have instability continue, exploited by neighbours by proxy. In any case, the US would continue being militarily engaged, even if increasingly in a support role. This is hardly an outcome worth the material investment made over the past decade and the cost in lives, particularly of non-combatants.

    Obama’s accession, his ‘deadline’ of July 2011, cessation of operations in Iraq, and economy-centred introspection in the US, have all made anti-war sentiment recede. However, the war is already the longest war the US has engaged in. It has exacted 4000 casualties. Continuing Afghan deaths, whether of civilians as ‘collateral damage’ or of insurgents, would ultimately also come under question. Release of the Wikileaks trove, questioning the figures on Iraqi dead, indicates the potentiality of US public opinion turning against the war. The Obama review would take a political view, sensitive to the presidential elections due in 2012.

    Continuing operations, particularly beyond the ‘culmination point’, would only increase radicalism, especially if Pakistan were to be destabilized further. The al Qaeda, reportedly reduced to 500 to 600 fighters, can be defeated by a strategy relying on covert operations or through drone attacks, rather than military operations. Whether a campaign has reached the culmination point is the critical strategic judgment. The December review provides the US-NATO combine the opportunity. A decision in favour of military predominant operations would reinforce failure. It is evident then that there needs to be a shift in strategy.

    The judgment would be essentially predicated on potential of the ‘peace talks’ prong of strategy. This would be considerably enhanced with the US taking hands-on control of the peace process. Presently, it is only supportive of it. The talks are Afghan-led, but the Karzai regime’s credibility slows down the peace process. In any case, the final outcome would require the US to come on board. The US should instead pre-position itself on one side of the table. This would make the desultory process acquire content and urgency. Alternatives to military action would emerge once the superpower’s intellectual, intelligence, material and diplomatic resources stand unambiguously committed to a negotiated outcome.

    The desired outcome needs working through along several parameters. It must preserve the results of the Bonn process. It should pre-empt civil war and reprisals. It should keep the US and its material resources engaged. It needs to get regional players on board. This can be done if their respective, sometimes contradictory, interests are protected. It requires the Taliban to moderate its ideological stance and cut off links with the al Qaeda. The European drawdown would have to be stage-managed. Only ‘win-win’ thinking can have each of the players taking something away from the table.

    Obama’s appointment of an interlocutor to the peace talks would energise this prong of strategy. Honour placated, the Taliban would participate. A promise of moderation can be extracted, with the Saudis and Pakistanis as guarantors. It would set the stage for a ceasefire. Reintegration of the Taliban could follow. Graduated ending of Western military presence can be predicated on the Taliban’s good behaviour and operations against the al Qaeda. Eventually, an extended economic and reconstruction engagement could remain in place under UN auspices, with all regional players engaged.

    War provides the context for radicalization and the threat that this creates. Ending the war would remove the conditions and context of radicalization. Such a tall order requires Obama to take charge. Obama has already received the Nobel Peace Prize for his intentions on the nuclear front. He could yet deserve it in case of peace initiatives in AfPak.






    http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/ObamasAfPakReviewshouldemphasiseonPeaceTalkswiththeTaliban_aliahmed_231110
     
  8. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    This is a commentary of the total confusion that prevails in Pakistan. Every one is on their own and equally is opposed by others!

    It shows also the fuzzy manner in which the the problem is being addressed.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2010
  9. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Afghan War Winnable Without Pakistan Help On Border: US



    WASHINGTON, Feb 1, 2011 (AFP) - NATO-led forces can still win the war in Afghanistan even if Pakistan fails to move against militant havens on the border, a top US general said on Tuesday.

    "That's not a mission stopper in my mind," General David Rodriguez, deputy US commander in Afghanistan, told a Pentagon news conference.

    US officials have long pressed Islamabad to crack down on the Haqqani network and other militants based in North Waziristan, saying the insurgents exploit the area as a sanctuary to stage attacks on coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

    But Rodriguez said the war effort would not be derailed even if Pakistan never fulfils promises to take action in North Waziristan, saying Islamabad has launched effective operations elsewhere along the northwest border.

    "We need them to do more. We're going to encourage them to do more because that makes it easier on what we're doing. But I think it's still doable, without them decreasing what they've been doing, which is significant," he said.

    His comments contrasted with more pessimistic assessments from US intelligence agencies and some lawmakers, who have warned that Pakistan's reluctance to combat the Haqqani network in North Waziristan could undermine the war effort.

    Pakistan has maintained ties to some militant groups as a hedge against historic rival India and to ensure Islamabad's influence in Afghanistan, diplomats say.

    Rodriguez said he expected violence in Afghanistan to increase as usual in the spring as the insurgency launches its annual "seasonal" offensive.

    But he predicted the Taliban would change its approach, targeting Afghan officials for assassination while moving away from confrontations with the heavily-armed coalition force.

    With President Barack Obama planning to start a withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in July, Rodriguez said it was too early to say how many forces might be pulled out.

    Rodriguez leads the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, serving under the overall commander in Afghanistan, US General David Petraeus.
     
  10. youngindian

    youngindian Senior Member Senior Member

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  11. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Seven charged by US with conspiring to aid Taliban

    Seven charged by US with conspiring to aid Taliban

    14 February 2011; BBC News

    Seven people, including two Americans, have been charged with conspiring to aid the Afghan Taliban by selling the militant group weapons and moving drugs through West Africa, US officials say.

    The two US citizens were charged with conspiring to sell missiles to protect Taliban-run heroin laboratories against US attacks in Afghanistan.

    They were arrested in Romania and are being held for extradition to the US.

    Other defendants allegedly plotted to sell heroin to the US for the Taliban.

    'Aiding Taliban efforts'

    The two Americans, identified as Alwar Pouryan and Oded Orbach, were indicted in connection to a scheme to sell surface-to-air missiles, automatic rifles and other weapons to the Taliban to help the rebel group protect their narcotics operations, the US justice department said in a statement.

    Five other defendants, who allegedly operated drug trafficking rings in Africa, were charged in a plot "to receive, store, and move ton-quantities of Taliban-owned heroin through West Africa, portions of which they understood would then be sent to the United States", the statement said.

    The five, named as Maroun Saade, Walid Nasr, Francis Sourou Ahissou, Corneille Dato and Martin Raouf Bouraima, were taken into custody in Liberia earlier this month by Liberian authorities and transferred to US custody, officials said.

    Once extradited, all seven are expected to be tried in New York.

    The defendants had communicated with confidential sources working with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the justice department statement said.

    "As alleged, the defendants charged today, including two US citizens, were prepared to provide millions of dollars in dangerous narcotics and lethal weapons to men they believed represented the Taliban," US Attorney Preet Bharara said.

    He added: "This alleged effort to arm and enrich the Taliban is the latest example of the dangers of an interconnected world in which terrorists and drug runners can link up across continents to harm Americans."

    Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12460236
     
  12. chex3009

    chex3009 Regular Member

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    Dispatch: Re-examining the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan



    Courtesy : STRATFOR
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  13. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    Afghan Leader Seeks Pakistani Help in Talks

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan arrived in Islamabad on Friday for a two-day visit, which was being viewed as an effort to ensure Pakistani help in the peace talks he has initiated with the Taliban.
    Mr. Karzai will meet with top Pakistani civil and military leaders.

    A statement by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Mr. Karzai was visiting at the request of President Asif Ali Zardari.

    Mr. Karzai has had an uneven relationship with the Pakistani leadership, and the visit will be a litmus test of where relations between the neighbors, often mistrustful of each other, are headed.

    Pakistan has a crucial role in the Afghan peace process because it maintains influence over several Taliban groups that are fighting inside Afghanistan against United States and NATO forces, and it has shown no inclination of loosening its leverage. Many of the Taliban groups’ leaders and fighters operate from Pakistan’s tribal regions.

    Leon E. Panetta, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who is President Obama’s nominee to be secretary of defense, was also in Islamabad on Friday, administration officials said. He met with the Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the leader of Pakistan’s intelligence service, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

    The statement from Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Mr. Karzai’s visit “will contribute to further enhancing friendship and close cooperative ties” between the two countries. He is scheduled to hold a news conference with Mr. Zardari on Saturday, officials here said.

    “There are two objectives of the visit,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a defense analyst based in Lahore. “Firstly, President Karzai is seeking Pakistani cooperation for some kind of dialogue with the Taliban. Secondly, as the responsibility is shifted from the Americans to Afghan Army, they would like to see Pakistan’s cooperation to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan.”

    The quandary for Mr. Karzai is that while he wants good relations with Pakistan, the Tajik and Uzbek members in his government are very anti-Pakistan, Mr. Rizvi said, adding that he did not expect any big developments during the visit.

    “Pakistan will have to play its cards very carefully,” he said. “It would not want to overshadow the Afghan government, but it wants to remain a major player, as stability in Afghanistan is crucial for Pakistan as well.” Pakistan also wants to try to ensure that India does not gain more influence in Afghanistan.

    Pakistani military officials have long complained of being kept in the dark by United States officials as the endgame in Afghanistan draws near.

    In April, General Kayani and General Pasha accompanied Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on a visit to the Afghan capital, Kabul. It was considered an attempt by the Pakistani leadership to woo Mr. Karzai.

    Apart from soliciting Pakistani support for the peace process, Mr. Karzai is likely to again take up the issue of Taliban sanctuaries. Pakistan has balked at calls from the United States to start a military operation in North Waziristan, a semiautonomous tribal region on the border with Afghanistan. North Waziristan is a stronghold of the Haqqani network, the Taliban offshoot run by Sirajuddin Haqqani.
     
  14. Galaxy

    Galaxy Elite Member Elite Member

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    Afghans suspend talks with Pak to work with the US & India

    [h=2]Afghans suspend talks with Pak to work with the US & India[/h]
    Afghans suspend talks with Pak to work closely with the US and India to plan the country's future | The Nation | Latest News
     
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  15. shoaib

    shoaib Tihar Jail Banned

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    NEW DELHI: Afghan President Hamid Karzai sought Wednesday to reassure Pakistan about his country’s new partnership deal with India, which will see New Delhi help train Afghan security forces.
    “Pakistan is a twin brother, India is a great friend. The agreement that we signed yesterday with our friend will not affect our brother,” Karzai told an audience in New Delhi.
    India and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement on Tuesday shortly after Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai landed in New Delhi, his second visit to India this year.
    (Read: Karzai travels to India amid regional tension)
    It is the first strategic pact Afghanistan has signed with any country, and comes at a time relations between Kabul and another key regional stakeholder, Islamabad, have deteriorated alarmingly.
    The agreement, released in full late Tuesday, included commitments by India to assist with the training and equipping of Afghan security forces, offer more scholarships for Afghan students and facilitate bilateral trade. Both countries said they would work together more closely in international forums such as the United Nations, and work for “everlasting peace and friendship between the two governments.”

    Karzai reassures ‘twin brother’ Pakistan – The Express Tribune
     
  16. shoaib

    shoaib Tihar Jail Banned

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    Strategic pact with India not against Pakistan: Karzai

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai went out of his way on Wednesday to reassure Pakistan that it was not the target of the strategic partnership signed with India yesterday, but went on to add that in the wake of the killing of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani he had decided to call off the peace talks with the Taliban and would direct them at Islamabad instead.

    Delivering the third R K Mishra memorial lecture organised by the Observer Research Foundation, Karzai spoke eloquently and without notes on his vision for his country and South Asia, on the damage that terrorism wrought on the fabric of a nation and how he had changed his “attitude and rhetoric” against Pakistan when he saw how it also suffered from the same menace.

    “Pakistan is a twin brother, but India is a great friend. This agreement is not against my brother. This is to strengthen Afghanistan, to train our army, our police. If Pakistan and other neighbours want to offer similar training, we are happy to accept…both India and Afghanistan do not intend to use this beyond our two countries,” Karzai said, in answer to a question at the end of the lecture. The Afghan president’s response was clearly intended to assuage concerns across the Durand Line, especially at the Pakistan army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi which believes it has a direct stake in the approaching endgame when US forces withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

    But both Indian and Afghan sources confirmed that Kabul’s request to Delhi to train and equip the Afghan army and police had been in the pipeline at least since February this year. But as the situation grew increasingly unstable in the Af-Pak region, alongside US preparations to withdraw as well as a weakening polity inside Pakistan, Kabul began to look increasingly towards Delhi for help.

    When Rabbani was assassinated on September 24 by a suicide bomber claiming to be a peace messenger from the Taliban — the bomb was hidden in his turban — the Afghans gave the green signal to India, the sources said.
    “The Afghans had hesitated to sign the agreement when the PM had gone to Kabul some months ago, although it had been fully ready. It was pulled out at the last minute. But after Rabbani’s assassination, the Afghans told us they were ready to go ahead,” an Indian official confirmed.

    Karzai, himself, spoke calmly, but seemed aware that his country had reached a turning point in the war against terror. As the country built schools, village health centres, mosques and community areas, the terrorists killed doctors, teachers, the ulema, community leaders and thousands of civilians, he said.

    “Till 2006, I was highly vocal in condemning terrorism across the border,” Karzai said, “but when I saw that Pakistanis were also suffering I began to change my attitude and rhetoric. I am sure that no government in Afghansitan, since the creation of Pakistan 62 years ago, has been engaged as extensively as me in launching a peace process with the Taliban and with my brothers in Pakistan,” he added.

    Clearly, if Karzai seemed ready to give the people of Pakistan the benefit of the doubt, he wasn’t ready to name the Pakistan army for using the Haqqani terrorist network as its proxy to destabilise Afghanistan. However, he was ready to allude to them.

    “We have decided not to talk to the Taliban, because we don’t know their address. We don’t know where to find them. But we have decided to talk to our brothers in Pakistan,” Karzai said.

    Time and again, the Afghan president invoked the need for all countries in South Asia to live in harmony, pointing out that Europe was the model, which despite its wars had decided to come together in a union without borders.

    “Afghanistan’s grapes should reach Delhi and other parts of South Asia not by plane but in an Afghan truck,” Karzai said, referring to the trade and transit agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan which doesn’t allow Afghan trucks to carry back Indian goods through Pakistani territory.

    But the Afghan president also indicated that India and Pakistan should try and resolve their problems sooner than later, as Afghanistan “had no option but to be the best of friends with all its neighbors”.

    He hoped that the Indian leadership would continue to reach out leaders in Pakistan, just as former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of the BJP and current PM Manmohan Singh sought to do.

    Analysts pointed out that Karzai on this visit to India was a much changed person than the last time he was here several years ago.

    “Then he was still balancing India with Pakistan, because he realised that he needed them. But now, after so many of his closest advisers have been eliminated, he realises that although Pakistan may still hold the key to stability in the region, there is a democracy like India which can come to Afghanistan’s aid in so many sectors,” an Indian official said


    Strategic pact with India not against Pakistan: Karzai
     
  17. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    Lip service is enough for pakis.
     
  18. shoaib

    shoaib Tihar Jail Banned

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    ------------------------------
     
  19. shoaib

    shoaib Tihar Jail Banned

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    WASHINGTON, Oct 5 (APP): The United States (US) has welcomed the latest moves by Afghanistan and India towards strengthening their bilateral ties but sees no mediatory role for New Delhi in the Afghan reconciliation process. Instead, the US believes that the trilateral structure that is alreay in place and engages Islamabad, Kabul and Washington, provides a valuable platform for the way forward, the State Department said. “With regard to playing a mediating role, I don’t think that’s what we’re looking for here. We do believe this trilateral structure is of value and we should continue it,” Spokesperson Victoria Nuland remarked, when asked if Washington saw a mediatory role for India in reconciliation process Afghanistan, which shares a long border with Pakistan.
    The Afghan-led reconciliation process involves engaging militants who renounce violence and ties with al-Qaeda as part of the political effort to end the ten-year old conflict in Afghanistan.
    Asked about recent reports from Kabul that indicated President Hamid Karzai’s losing hope in talks with the Taliban, the spokesperson said the US special envoy Marc Grossman would be discussing the subject with the Afghan leadership during his upcoming visit.
    “We’ve seen the public statements, President Karzai’s speech and other things. We’ve had our own conversations. I think this is one of the subjects that Ambassador Grossman will want to talk about when he’s in Afghanistan. You know that we continue to believe that this trilateral structure is of value to all three of us, so we will have that conversation when he’s out there”.
    Grossman - who is on a long trip to Central and South Asia, meeting leaders on the Silk Road Initiative event in November- would be visiting both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    “Obviously, he will seek to have intensive conversations with both governments on the full range of issues.”
    Nuland welcomed the strategic partnership beween Afghanistan and India, that India’s participation in the New Silk Road Initiative.

    The spokesperson also backed a recent meeting between Pakistani and Indian commerce ministers.
    “We support any and all warming between Pakistan and India. We’ve been strong supporters of the dialogues that the two governments have been having.”
    The spokespeson would not speak specifically about reports that Islamabad has indicated its willingness to enter into talks with militants who lay down arms but thought the same conditions would be applied to militants everywhere wishing to join reconcilaition talks (that they must give up violence and sever any links with al-Qaeda).
    “I had not seen that. Again, our position on reconciliation is that if you’re going to reconcile, you’ve got to meet these criteria. Our hope would be that those are the same criteria that would be expected in this instance. But if there’s a chance to make those clearer, that’s a good thing.”
    Speaking generally, the spokesperson referred to conditions for Afghan militants wishing to join reconciliation in response to an earlier question but declined to speak specificially of any contacts as part of the process.
    Questioned about reports that the US had a meeting with the Haqqani militants with the help of Pakistan, the spokesperson replied:
    “Let me start with where we are on reconciliation. Our position here hasn’t changed. We support an Afghan-led process of reconciliation. So our efforts are in support of what the Afghans are up to. But we insist, as do the Afghans, that anybody who is reconciled or who is pursuing reconciliation has to renounce violence, they have to abandon their ties, cut their ties with al-Qaida, they have to abide by the laws and the constitution of Afghanistan, including respecting the rights of women and ethnic minorities.
    “Now, I’m not going to talk about any specifics and meetings and this and that. Within that umbrella this is an Afghan-led process. I will say to you, again, what we’ve been saying for some two weeks very firmly with regard to the Haqqani Network. Job one in our relationship with Pakistan is for us to work on the terror and the problem that they are posing to Pakistan, to the US, to Afghanistan.
    “The only other thing I would say here is it’s patently ridiculous to think that the American Government would be dictating to any other government who should or shouldn’t join its ranks.”
    When asked if a member of the Haqqani militant group were to renounce violence and meet criteria, could he be part of reconciliation, the spokesperson said: “These are the Afghans’ criteria, these are our criteria, but I’m not going to comment on any specific conversations that are going on under that umbrella.
    But those are the criteria that we require, yes, and the Afghans require.”

    Associated Press Of Pakistan ( Pakistan's Premier NEWS Agency ) - US sees no role for India in Afghan reconciliation
     
  20. shoaib

    shoaib Tihar Jail Banned

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    [h=1]Pakistan's New Alliance with Iran[/h]
    The Haqqani network, a feared insurgent group in Afghanistan allied with the Taliban militants, is not only a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's primary Inter-Services Intelligence Agency [ISI], according to the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, but also that the ISI helped Afghan militants to carry out a terrorist attack against the coalition soldiers and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Mullen added that America's fragile relations with Pakistan will deteriorate even futher: "I worry that the relationship [with Pakistan] will be in tougher shape down the road than it is now," Mullen said just few days before throwing a bombshell that made the Pakistani government furious.
    "The Haqqani Network—which has long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government and is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency—is responsible for the September 13th attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. There is ample evidence confirming that the Haqqanis were behind the June 28th attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and the September 10th truck bomb attack that killed five Afghans and injured another 96 individuals, 77 of whom were U.S. soldiers," Muller said on September 22, in front of a Senate committee, adding in his testimony that "in supporting these groups, the government of Pakistan, particularly the Pakistani Army, continues to jeopardize Pakistan's opportunity to be a respected and prosperous nation with genuine regional and international influence."
    Mullen's words provoked strong reactions, but many U.S. politicians seemed to agree with the Admiral's suggestion not to disengage with Pakistan, but rather to reframe the political relationship. "This is because while Pakistan is part of the problem in the region, it must also be part of the solution,",Mullen said. Some lawmakers, however, such as Republican Representative Ted Poe, are convinced that the U.S. cannot trust Pakistan any longer.
    "Ever since we found Osama Bin Laden living the high life, we've had our suspicion about Pakistan. Turns out they are disloyal, deceptive and a danger to the United States. " By sending aid to Pakistan, we are funding the enemy, endangering Americans and undermining our efforts in the region. This so-called ally takes billions in U.S. aid while at the same time supporting militants who attack us. They are disloyal, deceptive and a danger to the United States. We pay them to hate us. Now we pay them to bomb us. Let's not pay them at all," declared Poe, who introduced legislation in the US Congress to freeze all US aid to Pakistan except funds designated to help secure nuclear weapons, adding that this should be "last rodeo" for Islamabad.
    The United States gives Pakistan more than $2 billion in security assistance annually, although this summer the Obama administration decided to suspend, or in some cases cancel ,about a third of that aid this year. Altogether, about $800 million in military aid and equipment are affected.
    Pakistani officials quickly rejected all accusations. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani warned that the United States must end "its negative messaging" by accusing Pakistan of supporting militant attacks in Afghanistan. He said that such accusations would only strengthen anti-American feelings in his country. Interior minister Rehman Malik volunteered, "If you say that it is ISI involved in that attack, I categorically deny it… We have no such policy to attack or aid attack through Pakistani forces or through any Pakistani assistance." Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly said that few countries have been as brutally ravaged by terrorism as Pakistan, and that 30,000 civilians, police and security forces have been killed since 2002. Khar said Islamabad is determined to eliminate terrorism from its soil, from the region and from the world; and she called for enhanced international cooperation to wipe it out.
    The Pakistani government, however, is not doing much to show the U.S. any commitment really to fight terrorism. In an interview with Reuters, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani actually said that any unilateral military action by the U.S. "to hunt down militants of the Haqqani network inside Pakistan would be a violation of his country's sovereignty." In the meantime, Pakistan is trying to find ways to strengthen alliances not only with the "all weather ally," China, but also with Iran. Pakistan's FM Khar voiced her country's willingness to increase cooperation with Iran in regional and international fields. The Iranian Fars News agency reported that Pakistan and Iran wanted to deepen bilateral ties in political, economic, cultural, regional and international aspects, and that they have explored avenues for facilitating bilateral agreements. The two countries apparently want particularly to sign agreements in various fields, including energy, refinery construction and a multi-billion dollar pipeline project that is due to transfer Iran's gas to Pakistan, which is in need of energy. Further, the Middle East Media Research Institute reports that during an official meeting, the Iranian Interior Minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, has said that Pakistan would not be left alone in any eventuality, and that Pakistan's enemy is the enemy of Iran. Clearly the Iranian Minister is referring to the "American enemy."
    The U.S. has express its disappointment about this dangerous realignment between Islamabad and Teheran, and says it would like Pakistan to abandon the pipeline project that would bring gas from Iran. As reported by the Pakistan newspaper The Express Tribune, "the United States had made it clear that it opposed Pakistan's decision to import gas from Iran, even going so far as to threaten sanctions if Pakistan did not withdraw from the deal." The paper reports, however, that Pakistani officials used the U.S. opposition as an opportunity to press once again for a civilian nuclear power deal, according to which the US should provide Pakistan with nuclear technology for a civilian energy program. Such a deal with Pakistan is highly unlikely as Washington is concerned about Islamabad's nuclear arsenal.
    The U.S. has for sure to reframe its relationship with Islamabad, as Adm. Muller said, but it will not be easy for Washington to do that: Pakistan is not willing to cooperate. It seems that there is no intention to find a common denominator with which to start working to find peaceful solutions for the future of the region. Pakistan is the problem and also the solution, analysts are mindlesslyrepeating in Washington DC; but for now the government in Islamabad seems to be becoming more and more the problem, the newest "bad boy" of the broader Middle East.

    Pakistan's New Alliance with Iran :: Hudson New York
     
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