Sunday, October 16, 2016

Is India's Modi Succeeding in Isolating Pakistan?

Has India succeeded in framing the Kashmir issue as "Cross-border terrorism" rather than a genuine grass-roots freedom struggle of Kashmiri people?

Prime Minister Modi with NSA Ajit Doval   
 Has the international and Pakistani media bought the Indian propaganda on Kashmir?  Have the media headlines changed from Kashmir protests to Uri attack and "surgical strikes"?

Was the Cyril Almeida story in Dawn based on truth? Or was it planted for propaganda purposes to malign Pakistan Army? Who planted it?

Is the threat of Pakistan's isolation real? If so, why are investors continuing to invest in Pakistani market to push it to new highs? Why are China and the United States rejecting India's demand to isolate Pakistan? Why did Russia do first-ever military exercises in Pakistan? Why are so many countries conducting military exercises with Pakistan? Why is Iran seeking to join CPEC projects? Why are Turkey and OIC supporting Pakistan?

Will Pakistan act against Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and the Haqqanis?  Why are the British not acting against Altaf Husain for taking money from RAW and ordering MQM militant attacks in Karachi to hurt Pakistan? Why is Bramadagh Bugti being hosted by the Swiss government in spite of his support for terror attacks in Balochistan?

Why did the Afghan government oppose Pakistan's membership of the United Nations in 1947?  Why did the Afghan governments support Pakhtunstan movement led by Wali Khan who received money from RAW as documented by India's ex intelligence official RK Yadav in "Mission R&AW".  Why have the successive Afghan governments, except the Afghan Taliban, supported proxy wars in Pakistan for decades? Why is the Afghan government allowing RAW to use its territory to launch attacks in Pakistan?

What is the possible end-game in Afghanistan with pull-out of US ground forces? Will there be a power vacuum in Afghanistan? If so, who will fill it? Taliban? ISIS? Another force?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with panelists Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (

Here's a short last 3-minute version of it:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Investors Ignore Modi's War Talk to Drive Pakistan Shares to New Highs

Planted Stories in Indian Media

Who Are the Haqqanis?


Ex Indian Spy Documents RAW's Wars in Pakistan

700,000 Indian Soldiers vs 10 Million Kashmiris

What is India Hiding From UN Human Rights Commission?

Talk4Pak Think Tank

VPOS Youtube Channel

VPOS Vimeo Channel


Riaz Haq said...

#China impedes #India’s attempt to mention #Pakistan-based JeM, LeT in #Goa Declaration #BRICS2016 via @timesofindia

Given China's presence, a specific mention of cross-border terrorism was never going to be possible but India was expecting the declaration to mention India-specific terror groups like Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). However, as MEA secretary Amar Sinha said, Brics nations couldn't arrive at a consensus on the issue.
"Pakistan-based outfits are focused on India. It doesn't concern them (other Brics nations) really, it affects us," Sinha said. This was disappointing for India because international terror groups like the Islamic State and Jabhat-al-Nusra found mention in the declaration.
Asked why cross-border terrorism could not be included in the declaration, Sinha said India focused on concepts and ideas and not on specific terms. "We were focused on the ideas we wanted to be included. And if you look at what the joint statement says, I think it is pretty clear that we are talking about our neighbourhood,"' he said.

Riaz Haq said...

#Modi's Singular Focus on #Terrorism, #Pakistan Not Echoed By #BRICS Partners. #BRICS2016 #Kashmir … via @thewire_in

Pakistan a ‘mother-ship’, terrorism ‘its favourite child’ – with phrases like these, the Indian side kept reminding BRICS members of what its priority at the multilateral forum really was

Benaulim/Cavelossim (Goa): Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed combating “cross-border terrorism and its supporters” a “key BRICS priority”, there was no consensus across the five-nation bloc about specifically naming Pakistan-based terror groups, with China pointedly pushing back by talking about addressing “both symptoms and root causes”.

From the restricted off-camera session in the morning to the plenary session, Modi took every opportunity to push through the message about Pakistan – no names were taken, but the reference to India’s ‘neighbour’ could not be mistaken. From describing it as a “mothership of terrorism” – a somewhat obscure reference to the language of piracy – to claiming that BRICS had shown solidarity with India’s position that those who “nurture, shelter, support and sponsor” terrorists are also a “threat”, Modi kept on hammering the point throughout Sunday.

Not surprisingly, in their statements, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa used more neutral terms while talking about terrorism.

At the BRICS plenary, Russian president Vladimir Putin made no mention of terror, but later in the evening at the outreach event he did talk of the need to “collectively” fight the menace. In his press conference with Russian journalists, his focus was on ISIL in Syria, Iraq and Libya, and on India as an important market for Russian products, especially arms – and not the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism that the Indian side had laid so much public and private stress on over the past two days.

Both Brazilian President Michel Temer and South African President Jacob Zuma – whose countries have remained unscathed from international terrorism so far – talked mainly about the need for increasing intra-BRICS investment.

In pointed remarks, Chinese president Xi Jinping first included terrorism as part of the “global challenges” which have led to a “complex and volatile external environment for BRICS countries”. “Furthermore, we have to confront complicated geopolitical factors, intertwined traditional and non-traditional security risks and also rising global challenges such as terrorism, infectious diseases and climate change,” he said.

Xi said that BRICS should step up “coordination and communication on major international issues and regional hotspots”. The five-member bloc should speak in one voice to “find political solutions to hotspots issues and take on global challenges like natural disasters, climate change, infectious diseases and terrorism,” he said, before adding his punchline: “We should also address issues on the ground with concrete efforts and a multi-pronged approach that addresses both symptoms and root causes.”

The Chinese leader’s reference of “symptom and root causes” – a dog-whistle phrase used by Pakistan to rake up Kashmir when India talks of cross-border terrorism – was a clear indication of the gulf that still separates India from China and BRICS as a group on the issue.

Xi’s words were especially notable as he immediately followed Modi, who asserted that there should be “no distinction (in fighting terrorists) based on artificial and self-serving grounds”. Just a day earlier, Modi had raised the issue of China’s ‘technical hold’ on listing Jaish-e-Mohammed supremo Masood Azhar as a terrorist with a UN Security Council panel, to which Xi had not indicated any readiness to change Beijing’s stance.

NBRX said...

China has several times vetoed against sanctions imposed on North Korea despite its track record. Masood Azhar veto should not come as a surprise. South Korea, Japan and US have grievances against China but because of economic clout they tolerate it.

In Pakistan case, it hurts the country much more.

Riaz Haq said...

#BRICSSummit: #India's & #Modi's Failure. #China. #Russia refused to name #Pakistan on #terrorism … via @IndianExpress

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just been delivered an unhappy lesson at the just-concluded BRICS summit in Goa: though nine-tenths of geopolitics is about bluff, the critical one-tenth is about knowing when to fold.
The Prime Minister proclaimed, in his closing statement at the summit, that BRICS member-states were “agreed that those who nurture, shelter, support and sponsor such forces of violence and terror are as much a threat to us as the terrorists themselves”. The BRICS 109 paragraph summit declaration, however, doesn’t have a single sentence reflecting this purported consensus—not even the words “nurture”, “shelter” or “sponsor”.
Worse, from India’s optic, the summit declaration calls for action against all United Nations-designated terrorist organisations which include the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad but names only the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s proxy, Jabhat al-Nusra—both threats to China and Russia but not to India.

China’s President Xi Jinping, said success against terrorism made it imperative to “addresses both symptoms and root causes”—a stock-phrase Islamabad often uses to refer to the conflict over Kashmir. Russian President Vladimir Putin made no mention of terrorism emanating from Pakistan at all.
Add to this, the United States’ studied refusal to be drawn into harsh action against Pakistan and there’s a simple lesson to be drawn: less than a month after it began, the Prime Minister’s campaign to isolate Pakistan is not gaining momentum.

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #Modi Over-Played #Pakistan At #BRICSSummit and Failed in #Goa … via @ndtv

In keeping with the message the Government of India has been pushing even before the Uri attack, the Prime Minister's stream of tough words aimed at isolating Pakistan for its support to terror groups that act against India, made headlines through the two day BRICS and BIMSTEC meetings that took place in Goa on October 15 and 16. Diplomats have been quick to point the finger of blame for the predominant focus on terrorism at journalists - both from print and television. A focus that only served to highlight India's failure to include a mention of Pakistan or terms like 'safe havens' and 'cross-border terrorism' in the final Goa Declaration.

But that finger pointing is disingenuous. As leaders met in a restricted session on the morning of October 16 in Goa, the first message from the government made public was a tweet by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup, quoting PM Modi as saying "the mother-ship of terrorism is in India's neighbourhood". Hard-hitting language that set the tone for what was to come in the Prime Minister's several statements through the day was a clear indication that terrorism was higher up in priority than any other agenda. PM Modi's statements were peppered with references to state-sponsored terrorism and the threat emanating from India's immediate neighbour. His closing statement after the BRICS plenary was particularly emphatic. PM Modi said all leaders had agreed that states that shelter terror groups are equally to blame.

Riaz Haq said...

#America is likely to remain cosy with #Pakistan and there is little that #India, #Modi can do about it via @qzindia

The Obama administration, now in its last phase, is unlikely to take any strong action against Pakistan even though the White House tacitly supported recent Indian military strikes against terrorists on Pakistan’s side of the Line of Control (LoC).
The Indian strikes came after a cross-border attack on an army camp in Uri, that killed 20 soldiers. The White House issued a short statement the same day, calling on Pakistan to do the right thing. But that is as far as president Barack Obama might be willing to go given the ongoing crises in Syria and Yemen and the volatile nature of the presidential election at home.
It should not surprise New Delhi even though it may disappoint many that the Obama administration does not support a bill introduced in the US Congress on Sept. 20 by congressman Ted Poe, chairman of the house subcommittee on terrorism, calling for Pakistan to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.
When asked if the administration would support the move, the state department spokesman John Kirby was more than clear. “Obviously, we don’t,” was the short answer.
The Obama administration has been more circumspect, maintaining what it deems as a necessary “balance” between India and Pakistan in its public statements. It was only after New Delhi pushed hard and pointed to the many statements of support from American lawmakers that the White House was nudged into action after Uri.
The White House issued a stronger statement on the day India launched “surgical strikes” against terrorist launch pads along the LoC, “highlighting the danger that cross-border terrorism poses to the region.” US national security adviser Susan Rice asked that Pakistan “take effective action to combat and delegitimize United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities.”

There are still nearly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s cooperation is vital for Washington.

While it’s clear that Pakistan has exhausted most of the goodwill in Washington, no one in the White House has the appetite for rocking the boat and taking the final step towards declaring it a state sponsor of terrorism. There are still nearly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s cooperation is vital for Washington.
In addition, South Asia is not high on Obama’s radar. His personal interest and investment in the region are arguably less than those of his predecessor. The same could be said of his national security adviser.
Pakistan plays in the little space that is left and uses US officials’ fear of a possible nuclear exchange in South Asia to its advantage. Earlier this month, Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s two envoys—Mushahid Hussain Syed and Shezra Mansab Khan Ali—sent to denounce India and raise the Kashmir issue, made sure they played on those fears.
Syed reminded his audiences that it was the Clinton administration that called South Asia a potential “nuclear flashpoint.” The clear implication was that the current tensions could lead there unless the Americans intervene with India.
Then, in a gigantic leap, Syed claimed that Afghanistan would not find peace unless Kashmir is settled, bluntly saying the “road to peace in Kabul lies in Kashmir” AND that the two could not be compartmentalised. In other words, the whole region would continue to burn unless Pakistan’s wishes were honoured.
“We request the US to intervene because it has leverage with India,” he said. But even the Obama administration finds it difficult these days to take up for Pakistan, mainly because it has refused to act against the Haqqani network and done nothing to shut down UN-designated terrorists such as Hafiz Saeed who roam freely and hold public meetings.

Pakistan is far from being isolated and finds itself once again at the centre of geopolitics.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan thwarted #India's #Modi's attempt to block #39m UN #climatechange #GCFund for 700,000 in #GilgitBaltistan

Songdo, South Korea is not a place that would normally spring to mind as a venue for an Indo-Pak confrontation. Last week, however, the boardrooms of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) witnessed a fascinating spectacle involving the two South Asian states. What was at stake this time? 39 million dollars and the livelihood of 700,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable people of our country.

Formed in 2010 and a centrepiece of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the GCF is the primary global vehicle to finance climate change-related interventions in developing countries.

In Songdo, where it is based, the GCF board met last week to review and approve 10 projects worth $800 million that would help millions of poor people adapt to the risks of climate change.

Among these projects was one submitted by Pakistan — a crucial first for our country given that we are one of the most at-risk places when it comes to climate change.

Supported by the United Nations Development Program, the project is meant to reduce risks and impact of flooding outbursts from glacial lakes in communities in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Also read: Climate change - The perfect storm

The GCF’s independent technical committee concluded that the project would provide protection to more than 700,000 people, and gave it the go-ahead.

But not before significant drama and tension, as India attempted to have the decision derailed.

In a waffling set of attacks, Indian board member Dinesh Sharma, a Special Secretary in Indian Ministry of Finance, put forth several contradictory reasons for his opposition to the Pakistani project:

The science on glacial melt was weak and hence the project itself was weak; the project risk assessment, he felt, proved that there would be no impact (he was unable to clarify what he meant by ‘no impact’); and that somehow the mitigation work in Pakistan — mostly the installation of early warning and other sensory systems and capacity building of communities — could increase the risks that Indians on the other side of the border were exposed to.

The more Mr Sharma insisted that he was challenging the project on technical rather than political grounds, the more isolated he became. As his objections grew, the true nature of his hostility became more and more obvious to everyone on the board, even though he kept on insisting that his position was only meant to safeguard the credibility of the GCF. His position backfired and ended up generating significant sympathy for Pakistan from developed and developing countries alike.

A robust project meant that the Pakistani board member did not even need to respond directly to Indian concerns. In fact, it were other board members who spoke up in Pakistan’s defence, which was a testament to the country’s case and conduct at the meeting.

Ultimately, group pressure from the entire board, including the South African co-chair, led to the Indian representative being isolated and having no choice but to go with the consensus in the room and approve the project.

And just for the record, this is not propaganda from a Pakistani patriot; the evidence is available in the documented recordings of all the proceedings on the GCF website.

Riaz Haq said...

"Isolated" #Pakistan hosts 16-nation military sports tournament #Australia #UK #China #SriLanka #SaudiArabia #Turkey

Army cricket teams from different countries have arrived at Lahore to take part in the first ever Physical Agility Combat Efficiency System (PACES) competition being hosted by Pakistan Army.

Teams from Sri Lanka, England, Saudi Arabia, China and Australia will participate in the competition.

The event is being organised by Pakistan Army, which is the first-ever such competition in the world.

Commander Lahore Corps Lt-General Sadiq Ali declared the PACES Competition Open amid a colourful ceremony at the Venue which was attended by a large crowd.

All the participating teams joined a Flag March Past, followed by Army's regimental troupes, representing all provinces of Pakistan including Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammun Kashmir, which presented traditional folk dances on the tune of famous regional songs and a spectacular demonstration by the Pakistan Army band, which won thunderous applauds from the audience.

People's Liberation Army (China) and Pakistan Army dominated the opening day of the Pull-Ups contest in the First International PACES Competition-2016 that commenced at the Ayub Stadium on Tuesday.

The visiting cricket teams practised at (NCA) indoor and outdoor to prepare for the first leg of matches to be held on October 19, 21 and 22 in various grounds of Lahore. Later, the team will travel to Rawalpindi and Abbottabad to feature in the remaining matches.

On Wednesday, the participating teams will compete in 3.2-km run which will start at 9am from Askari-10 and end at the Ayub Stadium.

Players of different countries during opening ceremony of first ever Physical Agility and Combat Efficiency System competition. ─APP

Riaz Haq said...

Truth is, Narendra #Modi failed at #BRICS, embarrassed #India. #Pakistan #Russia #China … via @dailyo_

Modi appears to have left BRICS leaders unimpressed. As the dust settles on the Goa summit, the government’s orchestration of using the BRICS platform to isolate Pakistan has failed. Moreover, Modi’s loud claim of success has turned out to be embarrassing for the country.

Modi erred on three major counts. Firstly, he overplayed the terrorism issue. At almost every session, he single-mindedly pursued his Pakistan agenda, derailing BRICS’s own agenda in the process.

Secondly, he made the mistake of treating the five-nation grouping of BRICS as a debating club like the UN, which it is not. Soft, smart diplomacy ceded space to overt, unilateral pursuit of Pakistan-centric agenda that was outside the brief of BRICS.

Thirdly and most importantly, Modi not only failed to read the mind of the Chinese but also misread the mood of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The result was expected. The Goa Declaration did talk of the menace of terrorism stalking the world in general terms. It addressed the global concern over terrorism, the battle being fought over it in Syria and other West Asian countries. But it omitted mentioning Pakistan, the “mothership”, in any manner whatsoever.

Syria got mentioned because Russia wanted it. Pakistan was omitted because China opposed it. In more than a 100 points of the declaration, 109 paragraphs to be precise, Modi failed to have Pakistan named either in the context of cross-border terrorism or as a state sponsoring terrorism to further his political heft.

Even the LeT and JeM, designated as terrorist organisations by the UN, didn’t find mention in the teeth of Chinese opposition. Ironically, Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Jabhat Al Nusra, also designated terrorist outfits like the LeT and JeM by the UN, figured in the declaration. That’s because Russia had its way and China acted in coordination with Russia.

China came out all guns blazing in favour of Pakistan and played spoilsport at the summit and later in Beijing.

In response to Modi’s “mothership of terrorism” remark, the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry Hua Chunying bluntly told journalists in Beijing that China was opposed to linking “any country or religion" with terror. On the contrary, China asked the world to acknowledge Pakistan’s “great sacrifices” in combating terrorism.

Xi at the meet snubbed India by talking about addressing “symptoms and root causes” of terrorism. That’s precisely the language Pakistan has been using in reference to Kashmir.

Riaz Haq said...

South Asian media
All hail. The Economist

India’s press is more craven than Pakistan’s
Oct 22nd 2016 | DELHI | From the print edition

most Indians assume, their media are freer. When Cyril Almeida, a Pakistani journalist, revealed earlier this month that he had been banned from travelling abroad after writing a story that embarrassed Pakistan’s security forces, India’s tabloid press gloated.

The Schadenfreude proved short-lived. To general surprise, Mr Almeida’s colleagues rallied in noisy support. Pakistani newspapers, rights groups, journalists’ clubs and social media chorused outrage at his persecution. The pressure worked; the ban got lifted.

On the Indian side of the border, however, there has not been much critical examination of the government’s actions. Instead, Indian media have vied to beat war drums the loudest.

When an army spokesman, providing very few details, announced on September 29th that India had carried out a retaliatory “surgical strike” against alleged terrorist bases along the border, popular news channels declared it a spectacular triumph and an act of subtle statecraft. Some anchors took to describing India’s neighbour as “terror state Pakistan”. One station reconfigured its newsroom around a sandbox-style military diorama, complete with flashing lights and toy fighter planes. A parade of mustachioed experts explained how “our boys” would teach Pakistan a lesson it would never forget.

Such jingoism was predictable, given the fierce competition for ratings among India’s news groups. Disturbingly, however, the diehard nationalists have gone on the offensive against fellow Indians, too.

This month NDTV, a news channel with a reputation for sobriety, advertised an interview with Palaniappan Chidambaram, a former finance minister from the opposition Congress party. Mr Chidambaram was expected to say that previous governments had also hit back at Pakistan, but with less fanfare than the present one. Abruptly, however, NDTV cancelled the show. An executive sniffed that it was “not obliged to carry every shred of drivel” and would not “provide a platform for outrageous and wild accusations”.

Arnab Goswami, the anchor of a particularly raucous talk show, has declared that critics of the government should be jailed. Extreme nationalists in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, have urged filmmakers to ban Pakistani actors. One party has threatened to vandalise cinemas that dare show a Bollywood romance, “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil”, due for release later this month, which features Fawad Khan, a Pakistani heartthrob. The film’s director, Karan Johar, has aired a statement declaring his patriotism, explaining that the film was shot before the current trouble and promising never again to work with talent from “the neighbouring country”. One commentator described his performance as akin to a hostage pleading for mercy.

Why, asks Mr Chidambaram, are the media toeing the government line so slavishly? Some answer that they have become ever more concentrated in the hands of big corporations, many of which carry heavy debts and so are wary of offending the party in power. Others ascribe the shrinking space for dissent to the unchecked rise of chauvinist Hindu-nationalist groups. Repressive colonial-era laws on sedition and libel also play a part.

Riaz Haq said...

No Surprise in Pakistan Not Being Declared a ‘Terrorism-Sponsoring Nation’

Strategists who assumed that India could bring about such a declaration are poor students of history and do not understand how Washington works.

Our “strategists”, who had made the present leadership believe that they would be successful in declaring Pakistan as a terrorist-sponsor nation, are poor students of history. They may be good at event management by organising the prime minister’s diaspora meetings, but they don’t seem to know how Washington works. The closest India came to designating Pakistan as “terrorist nation” was in April 1993, when Narasimha Rao was prime minister. At that time, the Indian embassy and intelligence had jointly made nearly successful efforts to convince the US government of Pakistan’s role in fomenting terrorism against India and also in conniving with the drug mafia. Personal lobbying by ambassadors Abid Hussain and Siddharth Shankar Ray had almost convinced the US State Department to take a stand.

Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister of Pakistan at the time. Buffeted by the then president, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Sharif sent his confidante, Nisar Ali Khan, to Washington DC to plead his case for “retention”. Khan met then secretary of state Warren Christopher on April 7, 1993. According to the Federal Register, he presented a 5’X 7’ silk rug as a gift to the secretary valued at $500. Although Khan described the talks as “useful”, the state department delivered an unprecedented snub that very evening, warning Pakistan that it would be designated as a “terrorist sponsoring” nation if there was no improvement. Sharif was dismissed by Ghulam Ishaq Khan in July 1993. He moved the Supreme Court General Abdul Waheed Kakar, who was army chief, intervened and made both of them resign.

My personal enquiries at that time with the state department had revealed that it was Benazir Bhutto, on a private visit to Washington DC at the time, who had personally pleaded with the Clinton administration at different levels not to put Pakistan in the company of Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Cuba. Benazir had met even assistant secretary level officers in the state department, setting aside protocol as a former prime minister.

The US 9/11 National Commission has reported another move in 1998 by the state department’s counter-terrorism coordinator to designate Pakistan as a terrorist sponsor due to the ISI’s “activities in support of international terrorism” by supporting attacks “on civilian targets in Kashmir”. This was overruled by then secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who said that “putting the Pakistanis on the terrorist list would eliminate any influence the United States had over them”. Deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott had also felt that “additional sanctions would have bankrupted the Pakistanis, a dangerous move that could have brought ‘total chaos’ to a nuclear-armed country with a significant number of Islamic radicals”. This is the US’s stand even now. They need Pakistan to control Afghanistan. That India can substitute Pakistan in Afghanistan is a pipe dream.

Riaz Haq said...

Carlotta Gall in NY Times:

The political mood is shifting, too, as Afghans sense the declining American influence and start casting around for new patrons or renewing old alliances. The politicking is intense: “Hot, very hot,” as a former minister described the political climate.

For Afghans, and for many of us who have followed Afghanistan for decades — I have been visiting the country since the early 1990s — the times are reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s withdrawal in 1989 after a 10-year occupation. The Communist government and army that the Soviets left behind survived only three years before they were overthrown by the mujahedeen in 1992.

The Taliban, supported by Pakistan, seem intent on repeating that scenario, hoping to seize control of a section of territory along the Pakistani border and declare once more their Islamic Emirate. Since the Taliban temporarily overran the town of Kunduz last fall, many Afghans have lost confidence that the government can protect them.

Over the years, Afghanistan has received one of the highest amounts of foreign assistance per capita, on a par with the West Bank and Gaza and Liberia. The United States alone has spent close to $500 billion on its Afghanistan mission since 2002, most of it on military operations but roughly a fifth — $113 billion — on reconstruction, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Yet it remains one of the poorest countries in the world — more than 10 million people live below the poverty line, and three-quarters of the population is illiterate, according to the World Bank.

It looked easy enough at the beginning. The Taliban were swiftly defeated in 2001 and fled in disarray, as did Al Qaeda’s forces. I saw thousands of their fighters — including hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters — surrender in northern Afghanistan, and there was no doubt they were at the end of their strength and had lost popular support.

But they were allowed to regroup just over the mountains in Pakistan, and from there they still menace Afghanistan and the wider region. In Pakistan they started teaching young men how to build pressure-cooker bombs filled with ball bearings and suicide belts, and later truck bombs, and sent them out by the hundreds against targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

They are still recruiting and training bombers, including Ahmad Khan Rahami, the suspect in a series of bombings last month in New York City and New Jersey, who spent months in a madrasa in a Taliban stronghold near the Pakistani frontier town of Quetta.

Riaz Haq said...

Mark Perry in Politico:

In all, the U.S. has spent over $850 billion on the Afghanistan war, suffered nearly 2,400 dead and the Taliban is not only back in the field, they’ve made steady progress in wresting control of the country away from the U.S.-backed Afghanistan government. The Pentagon would like to convince us that the glass is half full: Two weeks ago they announced that “U.S. backed forces control 70 percent” of the country. Another way of saying this is that the Taliban controls 30 percent — a not insignificant gain from zero, which was the case only eight weeks after Bush’s air campaign began back in 2001. The Pentagon’s estimate is conservative: The Long War Journal’s Bill Roggio, who tracks the conflict, recently noted that the Taliban have a heavy influence in fully half the country and their power is expanding.

Is the U.S. winning at all in Afghanistan, even if progress is glacial? For former CIA officer Milt Bearden, the answer is “a little complicated” adding that “everyone goes into Afghanistan fine, the problem is getting out.” Robert Grenier agrees, but he carefully adds his own corollary: “Who’s ‘we’?” he asks, “and what do you mean by ‘win?’” Will Afghanistan ever be a stable country again, or will Washington have to settle for what former Gen. David Petraeus used to call “Afghan Good Enough”?


That the majority of the Pashtun have sided with the Taliban against the Kabul government is not a surprise to Robert Grenier. As the Uzbek and Tajik dominated Northern Alliance descended on Kabul in 2001, Grenier hoped their offensive could be slowed enough to enable him to convince the Pashtuns to join a new government. Schroen agreed, fearing that a new conflict would start when the Pashtuns bumped up against the northern tribes. “They don’t like each other, they don’t get along well,” he said at the time. “We didn’t understand the south like we did the north so we ended up not really winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.”

And 15 long years passed. Now all that is left, apparently, is for the Afghans to figure out for themselves how to win hearts and minds.