Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Trump's Afghan Strategy: Will Pakistan Yield to US Pressure?

Announcing the new US strategy on Afghanistan this week, President Donald Trump singled out "valued partner" Pakistan for increased American pressure to act against "agents of chaos" such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network who attack American service members and officials. Trump said this "will have to change, and that will change immediately." He also sought India's help in Afghanistan while ignoring the increased Iranian and Russian involvement in helping the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan's Response to US Pressure:

Will Trump's pressure on Pakistan work? Will Pakistanis do the bidding of the new US administration? To answer this question, let us look at the following two quotes:

1.  "The Pakistani establishment, as we saw in 1998 with the nuclear test, does not view assistance -- even sizable assistance to their own entities -- as a trade-off for national security vis-a-vis India". US Ambassador Anne Patterson, September 23, 2009

2. “Pakistan knows it can outstare the West."  Pakistani Nuclear Scientist Pervez Hoodbhoy, May 15, 2011

Pakistan is much less reliant on US assistance now than it was when the above statements were made. If anything, the Trump administration has less leverage with Pakistan today than its predecessors did back in 1990s and 2000s.

Iran and Russia in Afghanistan:

While Trump is singling out Pakistan as the main culprit for US failures in Afghanistan, the ground reality has substantially changed with the emergence of ISIS and increased Iranian and Russian involvement in helping the Afghan Taliban. Both see the Afghan Taliban as allies in fighting their common enemy ISIS in Afghanistan.

Russia's Ambassador at large for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov has described the Afghan Taliban as a “predominantly a national military-political movement”. “It is local, Afghanistan-based. They believe that they should have, from their perspective, fair share in the government of Afghanistan…They should talk and deal in their local context”. But Daesh (ISIS) “as an international organization is really dangerous”. “If you recall, young Taliban under the influence of Al-Qaeda in 1994, their rhetoric was very similar to today’s Daesh rhetoric”.

Mr. Kabulov's comments reveal the following conclusions that underpin the Russian policy shift in South Asia region:

1. Moscow now believes that the presence of ISIS (Daesh) in Afghanistan is a much bigger threat to  Russia's soft underbelly in the former Soviet republics of  Central Asia.

2.  The Afghan Taliban are an effective force to check the growth and spread of ISIS in Central and South Asian nations.

3.  Pakistan's cooperation is critical to help defeat ISIS in the region.

India's Proxy War Against Pakistan:

President Trump's Afghan strategy of partnering with India will further alienate Pakistan and make its cooperation with US less likely. Why?  Because Pakistan believes that India is using Afghanistan to attack Pakistan, an allegation confirmed as fact by former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who said in 2011 that "India has always used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan. India has over the years been financing problems in Pakistan".

Pakistan's fears about India waging proxy war in Pakistan via Afghanistan are further reinforced by a 2013 speech by India's current National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in which he talked about about "Pakistan's vulnerabilities" to terrorism and India's ability to take advantage of it.  Here are some excerpts of his speech at Sastra University:

"How do you tackle Pakistan?.....We start working on Pakistan's vulnerabilities-- economic, internal security, political, isolating them internationally, it can be anything..... it can be defeating Pakistan's policies in Afghanistan...... You stop the terrorists by denying them weapons, funds and manpower. Deny them funds by countering with one-and-a-half times more funding. If they have 1200 crores give them 1800 crores and they are on our side...who are the Taliban fighting for? It's because they haven't got jobs or someone has misled them. The Taliban are mercenaries. So go for more of the covert thing (against Pakistan)..." Ajit Doval, India's National Security Advisor

Pakistan's Support of the Afghan Taliban:

General David Petraeus, former CIA director and commander of US troops in Afghanistan, has said there is no evidence of Pakistan playing a double game and supporting terrorists in Afghanistan. He was answering a question posed to him at a presentation at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British security think tank based in London.

Here's part of Gen Petraeus' response: "I looked very very hard then (as US commander in Afghanistan) and again as CIA director at the nature of the relationship between the various (militant) groups in FATA and Baluchistan and the Pakistan Army and the ISI and I was never convinced of what certain journalists have alleged (about ISI support of militant groups in FATA).... I have talked to them (journalists) asked them what their sources are and I have not been able to come to grips with that based on what I know from these different positions (as US commander and CIA director)".

Gen Petraeus did acknowledge that "there's communication between the ISI and various militant groups in FATA and Balochistan (Haqqanis, Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, etc) but some of it you'd do anyway as an intelligence service." He added that "there may be some degree of accommodation that is forced on them (Pakistanis) because of the limits of their (Pakistan's) forces."

The Way Forward:

A hasty US exit from Afghanistan is not imminent. The United States needs Pakistan to help stabilize Afghanistan. But how can this be achieved? Can increased US pressure on Pakistan elicit cooperation? Can US partnership with India do the trick? In my view, neither will work. What will work is an understanding of Pakistan's legitimate concerns in Afghanistan.

What are Pakistan's legitimate interests in Afghanistan? The answer is: Pakistan's national security interest in stopping the use of the Afghan territory to launch attacks against it. Any solution to the Afghan problem has to include firm guarantees that India or any other country will be denied the use of Afghan territory and various militant groups to destabilize Pakistan.

The US must understand there can be no stability in Afghanistan if Pakistan feels insecure. The US also needs to acknowledge that an unstable nuclear-armed Pakistan will pose a far bigger threat than any threat emanating from Afghanistan.

Summary:

Trump's new Afghan strategy of increasing troop levels and ratcheting up the pressure on Pakistan will not work as long as Pakistan sees its vital national security interests threatened by India's proxy war being waged against it from the Afghan soil. Any solution to the Afghan problem must be regional. It has to include firm guarantees that India or any other country will be denied the use of Afghan territory to destabilize Pakistan.  The US must understand there can be no stability in Afghanistan if Pakistan feels insecure. The US also needs to acknowledge that an unstable nuclear-armed Pakistan will pose a far bigger threat than any threat emanating from Afghanistan.

Here's Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam discussing this subject with special guest United We Reach Chairperson Sabahat Rafiq and regular panelist Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PAU-88asQU&t=339s



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

What is the Haqqani Network?

Why is India Sponsoring Terror in Pakistan?

Mullah Mansoor Akhtar Killing in US Drone Strike

Gen Petraeus Debunks Charges of Pakistani Duplicity

Husain Haqqani vs Riaz Haq on India vs Pakistan

Impact of Trump's Top Picks on Pakistan

Husain Haqqani Advising Trump on Pakistan Policy?

Gall-Haqqani-Paul Narrative on Pakistan

Pakistan-China-Russia vs India-US-Japan

Robert Gates' Straight Talk on Pakistan



28 comments:

Ali H. said...

Good analysis, RH Sb...with a few disagreements, of course.

The main concern being the Pakistani Deep State's involvement in making the state foreign policy, and condoning groups aligned with that arcane strategy.

Riaz Haq said...

Ali: "The main concern being the Pakistani Deep State's involvement in making the state foreign policy, and condoning groups aligned with that arcane strategy."

Have you seen the military takeover of the White House?

There are generals everywhere controlling US policy.....Kelly, McMaster, Mattis.....

IN his speech outlining the new US Afghan strategy, Trump himself acknowledged yielding to the generals over his own instincts.

Riaz Haq said...

British Army Major: No ISI Presence in Afghanistan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUyCTJI_f-A

British Afghan war veteran Major Robert Gallimore says he saw no presence of ISI in Afghanistan. During his two tours of duty in Afghanistan, he could hear all the radio conversations going on but never heard any Pakistani accent. He did, however, see "buckets and buckets of money" and rising Indian influence with many in Afghanistan blaming Pakistan for all their problems. Pakistan is their bogeyman. Major Gallimore sees the emergence of an India-Pakistan "Great Game" similar to its British-Russian predecessor. Many Afghans support creation of Pashtunistan by annexing northern part of Pakistan into Afghanistan. They blame Pakistan for the Durand Line, not the British or their own leaders who agreed to it.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's $100B deal with China: What does it amount to?
By Nadia Naviwala

https://www.devex.com/news/pakistan-s-100b-deal-with-china-what-does-it-amount-to-90872

Early last year, the Pakistani government sent USAID officials in Islamabad a mystifying letter via snail mail: please stop doing feasibility studies for Diamer Basha Dam

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When USAID got the letter in 2016, they suspected that Pakistan had found funding with the Chinese. They were right.

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In May 2017 Pakistan and China signed a $50 billion agreement that included full funding for Diamer Basha and four other dams.

Although enormous, the new agreement hardly merited coverage in Pakistan. China already captured headlines and public imagination in 2013 when the two countries signed memorandums of understanding worth $46 billion to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. CPEC has since quietly grown to a $62 billion investment.

The latest $50 billion in memorandums now brings Chinese loans and investments in Pakistan to well over $100 billion. A senior member of the CPEC team at Pakistan’s Ministry for Planning, Development, and Reform predicts that figure will ultimately grow to $150 billion. If the dams face cost overruns — which are 96 percent on average — then that will be a conservative estimate.

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roads and rail are actually a small part of Chinese money in Pakistan — less than $11 billion of the original $46 billion agreement. It’s small because, contrary to popular perceptions, much of the CPEC route is actually financed by Pakistan.

“Much of the roads being built are being built by our money,” says Miftah Ismail, who was Pakistan’s minister for investment until late last month, when the cabinet was dissolved because the Supreme Court voted to remove the prime minister on grounds of corruption.

What Ismail estimates Pakistan will take on in Chinese projects this year — $4 billion in loans and investments — equals what the Pakistani federal and provincial governments have allocated for roads and highways in their own annual budgets.

China is also financing the expansion and improvement of Pakistan’s neglected railway system, doubling its speed from 60 to 120 kilometers per hour.

CPEC roads will connect landlocked Xinjiang province in western China through a new port city that it is building on Pakistan’s coast, Gwadar. China needs these roads to transport goods out, but it is hard to think of what will go in the other direction. China’s exports to Pakistan account for two-thirds of Pakistan’s trade deficit.

Nitin Bhakta said...

What you mention is an oft repeated yet tired Pakistani narrative that has become irrelevant. That Mujaheddin soldier would be about 60 years old today. After that war ended, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Cold War became non-contentious, new nations were formed, nations diplomatically realigned and a new order began but what did Pakistan do?
Pakistan didn't disband the mujaheddin as what most countries would normally do with mercenaries. Instead, Pakistani Military used the Mujahid-madarsa infrastructure to further it's eternal goal and infiltrated Indian Kashmir and created Taliban in Afghanistan to counter India aligned Norther Alliance.
Most of the terror based infrastructure was initiated then and has been funded ever since. These terror based mercenaries have spawned and splintered but only the ones that attack Pakistan are game. The rest get support from ISI.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Urges US to Tackle Terror Sanctuaries in #Afghanistan | World News | US News #AfghanStrategy #Trump #India https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-08-24/pakistans-pm-military-meet-to-respond-to-trumps-criticism


Pakistan on Thursday responded to Washington's accusation that it shelters the Afghan Taliban by saying the U.S. military itself is failing to eliminate militant sanctuaries inside Afghanistan.

The rare reaction came in a policy statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi after a meeting of the civilian and military leadership.

President Donald Trump has accused Pakistan of harbouring "agents of chaos" and providing safe havens to militant groups waging an insurgency against a U.S.-backed government in Kabul. Islamabad, he said, must quickly change tack.

Pakistan, however, saw things differently.

"We would like to see effective and immediate U.S. military efforts to eliminate sanctuaries harbouring terrorists and miscreants on Afghan soil, including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan," the Prime Minister's office said in a statement, one of the strongest ever responses to Washington. The Afghan war cannot be fought in Pakistan, it said.

The statement referred not only to the Afghan Taliban, but also the loosely affiliated Pakistani Taliban that Islamabad contends uses sanctuaries inside Afghanistan to plan attacks on Pakistani soil.

White House officials have threatened cuts in aid and military support, as well as other measures to force nuclear-armed Pakistan's hand and bring about an end to the 16-year-war.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said Washington should not use Pakistan as a "scapegoat" for its failures in America's longest running war. Pakistan denies harbouring militants.

The military, which has ruled the country for over half its 70-year history, calls the shots on key parts of Pakistan's foreign policy, including ties with the United States, Afghanistan and arch-foe India.

The prime minister's office said Washington's claims it had paid billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan were misleading.

Payments to Pakistan since 2001 accounted for only part of the cost of ground facilities and air corridors used by the U.S. for operations in Afghanistan, it said.

Pakistani officials bristle at what they say is a lack of respect by Washington for the country's sacrifices in the war against militancy and its successes against groups like al Qaeda, Islamic State or the Pakistani Taliban.

Pakistan estimates there have been 70,000 casualties in militant attacks, including 17,000 killed, since it joined the U.S. "war on terrorism" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

"We feel the American administration led by Mr Trump has been totally one sided, unfair to Pakistan and does not appreciate and recognise Pakistan has been a pivotal player," Senator Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the senate defence committee, told Reuters on Thursday.

Some analysts have suggested putting greater pressure on Pakistan risks driving Islamabad deeper into the arms of China, its northern neighbour which is investing nearly $60 billion in infrastructure projects as part of its Belt and Road initiative.

China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call the United States must value Pakistan's role in Afghanistan and respect its security concerns, according to Chinese state media. [nL4N1LA1NW]

The relationship between the two countries has endured periods of extreme strain in recent years, especially after al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was found and killed by U.S. special forces in Pakistan in a 2011 raid.


Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #PTI chief #ImranKhan's Interview with CNN's Hala Gorani about Trump's #AfghanStrategy

There are at most 2000 to 3,000 Haqqani insurgents that Pakistan is being accused of harboring.

The facts is Pakistan is a scapegoat for the failure of 150,000 NATO troops including 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan can do without US aid that has been extremely costly in terms of human and economic losses to the country.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFEPCPi1So8

Riaz Haq said...

Trump locks America into its forever war by Fareed Zakaria

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-signs-on-to-the-forever-war-in-afghanistan/2017/08/24/64684004-890e-11e7-a94f-3139abce39f5_story.html?utm_term=.60d573fc3511

A leading expert on Afghanistan policy, Barnett Rubin, who has advised the United Nations and the U.S. government, explains the problem as he sees it. “The Afghan state cannot exist without outside help,” he told me. “It cannot pay its bills without the U.S. government. It cannot have a stable society without Pakistan’s help. It cannot grow economically without trade and transit with Iran.” Referring to reports that Afghanistan is endowed with nearly $1 trillion in mineral resources, he observed, “I’m sure the moon has even more mineral wealth, but you need a way to get it out to markets. And for that, you need friendly neighbors.” Rubin believes that Trump’s approach is doomed because it seems utterly unilateral, willfully oblivious to the interests of the other powers in the region, especially Russia, China and Iran.

Trump’s remarks on Pakistan were seen by many as a strong break from the previous administration, but people appear to have forgotten the unusually blunt testimony that Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave to Congress in 2011. He called the Haqqani network, one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in Afghanistan, “a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.” That same year, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA Director David Petraeus both went to Pakistan to, in Clinton’s words, “push the Pakistanis very hard” to end their support for militant groups in Afghanistan. That was one in a series of actions that outraged the Pakistanis, causing them to shut down supply routes to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan for seven months.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has doubled down on more of the same. More money, bombs, troops, pressure on Pakistan and tough love for the Afghans. It is a tactical approach, designed by generals, to ensure that they do not lose. But it does not even pretend to contain a strategy to win. In other words, half a century later, at a lower human cost, the United States has replicated its strategy in Vietnam. Call it quagmire-lite.

Riaz Haq said...

#Trump's #AfghanStrategy Poised to Fail, #Pakistan's Premier Says. #Afghanistan #India #China https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-27/trump-s-afghan-strategy-poised-to-fail-pakistan-s-premier-says … via @bpolitics

U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy for the nation’s longest-running war in Afghanistan will meet the same fate as the plans of his predecessors, according to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Failure.

“From day one we have been saying very clearly the military strategy in Afghanistan has not worked and it will not work,” Abbasi, who took over as premier three weeks ago, said in an interview Saturday night in Karachi. There has to be a “political settlement,” he added. “That’s the bottom-line.”

Abbasi said while his government supports the fight against terrorists it won’t let the war in neighboring Afghanistan -- the countries share a 2,500-kilometer (1,550 miles) border -- spill into Pakistan.

The stance of Abassi’s administration may complicate Trump’s plan for the region after he pledged more U.S. troops for Afghanistan and called on Pakistan to stop providing a safe haven for terrorists.

Failure by Trump to resolve the Afghan war risks even greater financial and human cost for the U.S., could leave it bogged down further in the conflict, and may become a further sore point for ties with China and Pakistan, with Trump already chiding Beijing for not doing enough to stop the turmoil. The war has cost the U.S. about $714 billion and several thousand lives.

Afghanistan’s government is slowly losing its hold over the country with the Taliban now controlling about 40 percent of the country, which U.S. officials say couldn’t have been possible without help from Pakistan’s military. That’s a charge the Asian nation disputes.

“This is a classic dialogue of the deaf between Washington and Islamabad because neither agrees on what needs to be pursued but both make a sham of going together,” said Burzine Waghmar, a member of the Centre for the Study of Pakistan at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. “U.S. priorities are not the same as Pakistan,” which wants
Afghanistan to stay dependent on it, he said.

The U.S. in previous offensives in Afghanistan used drones to attack alleged terrorists in Pakistan. NATO troops have also used Pakistani ports and roads to move equipment into land-locked Afghanistan.

“We do not intend to allow anybody to fight Afghanistan’s battle on Pakistan’s soil,” Abbasi said during the interview at the former home of the nation’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, while he was on a visit to the nation’s commercial capital. “Whatever has to happen in Afghanistan should be happening in Afghanistan,” he said, adding Pakistan doesn’t harbor terrorists.

China’s Role

Abbasi was picked by the ruling party as prime minister this month after the nation’s top court disqualified predecessor Nawaz Sharif in July.

Support and investment from China will help Pakistan defy the U.S.

China, which is seeking to build its economic and strategic clout in South Asia, has more than $50 billion in planned infrastructure projects in Pakistan. With China’s role increasing, Pakistan’s forces have fewer incentives to stop covertly supporting insurgent groups that strike inside Afghanistan and India, while targeting outfits that threaten its own domestic security, according to analysts.

Pakistan’s military has been conducting its own offensive against terrorists with the latest operation in the Khyber tribal region starting last month after Islamic State’s presence increased across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani army earlier said it had cleared North Waziristan on the Afghanistan border, a region the U.S. has called an “epicenter” of terrorism.

Riaz Haq said...

#Trump beware: #Pakistan’s luck playing #China card is turning. #AfghanStrategy #India #Afghanistan http://sc.mp/C4dZrZ via @SCMP_news

As a result, if Pakistan comes under real pressure, China will probably be willing to extend forms of economic support and political protection it would previously have balked at. A version of this already played out in 2015, when Pakistan was being pushed by the Saudis and the UAE to play a significant role in the military campaign in Yemen. Chinese economic reassurances helped Pakistan to resist the entreaties and financial threats. China has also given stronger political cover to Pakistan in international forums.

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At the lowest ebb of the last annus horribilis for US-Pakistan ties in 2011, soon after the special forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan brandished the China card: if relations with Washington were going into a tailspin, Islamabad would turn to Beijing instead. They were rebuffed. China discreetly made it clear to both the United States and Pakistan that the “all-weather friendship” was already as deep as they wanted it to be and that Islamabad needed to focus on fixing its relations with Washington.

With President Donald Trump’s announcement that the new US South Asia strategy will involve tightening the screws on Pakistan if it doesn’t address militant safe havens within its borders, the early indications are that the China card will be played again. This time, however, Pakistan may have more luck. The relationship with Beijing is in a very different place now and while China will take its usual care not to get caught in the middle, it is likely to provide a stronger backdrop of support than it did the last time US-Pakistan tensions escalated.

Some things haven’t changed. While it might seem that Beijing would see any deterioration of Islamabad’s ties with Washington as an opportunity to exploit, China has long perceived greater advantage in a robust US-Pakistan relationship. Given Pakistan’s most important role for China has been as a counterbalance to India, it wants Islamabad to benefit from solid US economic and military support. Healthy ties with Washington are seen by Beijing to place implicit limits on the scope of US-India relations. They also ensure that Pakistan doesn’t turn into yet another point of tension in US-China relations or act as an impediment to Sino-Pakistani security ties.


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In addition to the fact that China’s once negligible economic interests in Pakistan have grown to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in investment, there is a political premium to making CPEC a success.

CPEC is also bound up in a deeper Chinese strategic commitment to Pakistan. As the People’s Liberation Army looks to expand its global power projection capabilities, it is strengthening ties with partners in areas ranging from naval cooperation to counterterrorism. In the last two years, the security relationship with Pakistani has been held up as a model to follow in this regard.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan cancels 3 high-level meetings with #US since #AfghanStrategy, turns away from #Washington, looks to #China

https://www.ft.com/content/a1802446-8bdb-11e7-a352-e46f43c5825d


Pakistan has called off three high-level meetings with Washington, as experts warn that President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan policy risks driving Islamabad closer towards Beijing.

Alice Wells, acting assistant secretary of state, and Lisa Curtis, who serves on the National Security Council, were due to visit Pakistan this week as the US looks to explain its new position to the key players in the region.

But Islamabad has indefinitely postponed both meetings, as well as a planned trip to the US by its foreign minister Khawaja Asif, in response to Mr Trump’s announcement last week that he intends to keep US troops in Afghanistan and accusing Pakistan of harbouring terrorists.

On Monday morning the US state department was still saying that the Pakistan visit was part of Ms Curtis’s three-country tour of the region but later confirmed it had been cancelled.

“At the request of the government of Pakistan, that trip has been postponed until a mutually convenient time,” a state department spokesperson said.

Mr Trump had called on Pakistan to do more to tackle cross-border terrorism, saying the country had “sheltered the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people”.


Citing an erosion of trust, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said future US support for Pakistan would be conditional on the country adopting “a different approach”.

Their comments sparked immediate anger in Islamabad. Over the weekend, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the country’s interim prime minister, said in an interview: “From day one we have been saying very clearly the military strategy in Afghanistan has not worked and it will not work.”


But analysts also warn the US policy is likely to push Pakistan closer into the embrace of China, which is investing more than $50bn in its southern neighbour as part of its “One Belt, One Road” project to create a new silk road of trade routes across the world.

They point out that instead of going to the US, Mr Asif is travelling to China, Turkey and Russia.

One senior foreign ministry official in Islamabad told the Financial Times: “In this hour of need once again, we have China standing firmly with us as president Trump threatens to bring the Afghan war to Pakistan.”

The official added: “We have put further discussions on hold and need to decide first, exactly how the [US-Pakistan] relationship can proceed productively”.

Pakistan has proved an important ally to the US since the Cold War, when it helped support the mujahideen resistance against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

But since then, the relationship has wavered. Washington has been torn between relying on the Islamabad government to provide a bridgehead to Afghanistan and the wider region, and criticising it for failing to tackle domestic terrorism.

In recent years, Pakistan has allowed the US to use its territory as a supply route into Afghanistan and accepted increasingly frequent drone attacks by US forces.

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An official at the central bank in Karachi said, China’s role “is going to be very useful to avert a [balance of payments] crisis if there is one”.

For Beijing, the relationship offers a faster route to the sea for goods from western China, a new area of business for the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and an ally to support it in its fractious relationship with India.

Li Guofu, head of Middle Eastern research at the China Institute of International Studies, said: “Trump's new south Asia strategy, before it's been fully implemented, has already created a feeling of threat for Pakistan and aroused a strong negative response ... China has been actively trying to help the situation, and we are very concerned.”

But while Pakistan edges closer to China, analysts say it is unlikely to cut off ties completely with the US.

Riaz Haq said...

Venom-spewing Husain Haqqani challenged by sane ex US National Security Council official Laurel Miller on PBS News:

http://www.wnyc.org/story/how-can-us-get-pakistans-cooperation-on-afghanistan/

HUSAIN HAQQANI, Former Ambassador, Pakistan: Well, the two most important things that I saw in President Trump’s address were a removal of deadlines. That to me is very important, because the Taliban have had a saying for years that the Americans have watches and we have the time. When you set deadlines and show urgency about leaving Afghanistan, they really know they can wait you out, and so can the Pakistanis who support them.

So that I think is the change. It might actually be easier for the United States to get out of Afghanistan by saying, we do not intend to get out without doing what we really came here to do, which was to eliminate a terrorist safe haven.

The second thing I found interesting was that instead of offering a carrot to Pakistan, which has been the past practice, and a little bit of reprimanding Pakistan, there was a clear acknowledgment of the fact that Pakistan is not a good actor in Afghanistan.

It pains me to say that. I am a Pakistani. I served Pakistan as ambassador, but Pakistan has never been transparent about its attitude towards Afghanistan. And it has had an imaginary fear of India having a strong presence in Afghanistan.

President Trump has implied that he will invite India into Afghanistan, bringing Pakistan’s nightmare to reality. And that may have some effect in changing Pakistan’s calculus that several billion dollars in American assistance did not do.

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LAUREL MILLER, Former State Department Official: Over an extended of period, the U.S. has provided substantial support the Pakistan, primarily security related, but that’s been dwindling quite considerably over past years and is expected to dwindle further. And s a consequence, it’s not really a major point of leverage with the Pakistanis anymore. The U.S. is not providing billions of dollars any longer to Pakistan.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, that was incorrect to say billions —

LAUREL MILLER: If you calculate the amount that has been provided over a long stretch of time, it’s billions of dollars. But on an annual basis now, it’s nowhere near that. It’s well under a billion dollars a year. By contrast, the Chinese provide much, much greater levels of support to the Pakistanis. And so, it’s quite notable that the Chinese have come out today, giving a boost of support for the Pakistanis.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Ambassador Haqqani, is it really that serious leverage then? Because we hear Laurel Miller saying it’s not that much money.

HUSAIN HAQQANI: Well, with all due respect to Laurel, here are the facts: Pakistan has received $43 billion since 1954. Pakistan built its nuclear program while promising not to build it. A long track record, Pakistan offered bases in which return Pakistan was supposed to have been compensated way back in the ’50s and ’60s. Only provided an intelligence base, didn’t provide the air base that was promised.

The point is there is a pattern here. And that pattern is enabled by arguments like the one that, this is not as much money.

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me just stop you there.

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LAUREL MILLER: There is some leverage. I mean, look, the border can’t be closed. It’s a very porous border. It’s very difficult territory.

So, the idea of literally closing the border is an impossibility. But certainly, there’s much more that the Pakistanis could do to close down the sanctuaries that Taliban leadership in particular enjoy in Pakistan.

But, you know, it’s not that there’s no leverage on the Pakistanis. But the Pakistanis are not going to change their perception of their own national security interests based only on American pressure. There has to be something that attracts the Pakistanis to cooperate in a positive way with the United States.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan suspends talks, visits from/to #US after #Trump's #AfghanStrategy Speech

http://nation.com.pk/national/29-Aug-2017/us-talks-visits-suspended-in-protest-asif


ISLAMABAD - The Senate Committee of the Whole House in its draft recommendations on the policy guidelines regarding post-Trump Afghan policy has proposed to the government to chalk out a “verifiable mechanism” to authenticate the allegations, both from Pakistan and Afghanistan, about cross-border terrorism.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif informed the committee on Monday that Pakistan had suspended talks and bilateral visits to the US as a protest following the tough remarks of US President Donald Trump against Pakistan while outlining his plan for Afghanistan and South Asia, sources told The Nation.

The special committee that held its in-camera meeting to finalise the draft proposals of the subcommittee, already formed by Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani for policy guidelines on the situation arising out of the US president’s plan on Afghanistan as well as his diatribe against Pakistan.

The foreign minister said that the Pakistan had taken the remarks of US president serious and added that US president’s policy on South Asia did not give any military role to India in Afghanistan. He was of the view that it was rather a role of economic development.

He said that the US thought that India’s increasing economic activities in Afghanistan would ultimately help bring economic stability in the region, the sources informed.

Asif also said that the US was not willing to accept Pakistan’s stance about India that the latter was involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan while using the soil of Afghanistan.

The lawmakers during the meeting sought the details of the Indian sponsored terrorism incidents in Pakistan - including the ones carried out by India’s serving naval officer and RAW spy Kulbushan Jhadev.

They also sought from the government a fact-sheet on US financial assistance received after 9/11, including the reimbursed amount of coalition support fund (CSF), and the financial loss incurred by the country while playing the role of a frontline state in the war on terrorism.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua informed the committee that a three-day meeting, commencing from September 5, of Pakistan’s envoys, had been summoned to finalise a strategy over the situation.

The Whole Committee would again meet today (Wednesday) as the lawmakers made some amendments in the draft of the policy guidelines and sent it back to the sub-committee. The sub-committee would present the final draft proposals today before the Whole Committee and the same would be adopted by the Upper House tomorrow (Wednesday) along with the passage of a resolution.

The National Assembly is also set to adopt a similar resolution on Wednesday after which resolutions and input of both the houses will be placed before the National Security Council (NSC) to chalk out a policy.

Senator Mushahid Hussain, a member of the subcommittee, gave a detailed briefing to the Committee of the Whole House and suggested the government to constitute a permanent Inter-Ministerial Task Force for an immediate response to any emergency situation vis-a-vis US policy shift.

Pakistan should use the Quadrilateral Counterterrorism Coordination Mechanism (QCCM) forum to neutralise the US concerns, he said. He also advised the government to give a regional response to the United States with the help of Turkey, Russia, and China.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed also appreciated formation of the committee, which was assigned to finalise a draft in four days but the task was accomplished within few hours.

He said the parliament was working as per the aspirations of the people on all the important issues confronting the country.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said both houses of parliament should adopt their own resolutions on the issue. “There is no harm if the National Assembly adopts the Senate resolution, but they should bring their own resolution,” he said. The foreign minister endorsed the idea.

Riaz Haq said...

Geopolitical revolution as #Pakistan strengthens ties with #China. #CPEC #India #Trump #USA

https://youtu.be/YjRL0JkoSiA via @YouTube

A geopolitical revolution is currently underway in south Asia. With diplomatic relations between the US and Pakistan souring in recent months, Islamabad is inching closer to Beijing. Ties between the two neighbours are set to become even stronger if the multibillion-euro "China Pakistan Economic Corridor" goes ahead as planned. But who stands to benefit the most? Our correspondents in Pakistan report.

Riaz Haq said...

#Indian Journalist Karan Thapar: #Trump’s threats will mean little to #Pakistan. #AfghanStrategy via @htTweets

http://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/donald-trump-s-threats-will-mean-little-to-pakistan/story-ce10ZJfHW0Q4KLHZGR7PlJ.html


For a start, this won’t be the first time America has threatened to cut aid to Pakistan. In fact, there are at least two occasions in the past when it actually did but that failed to alter Islamabad’s behaviour.

American aid first picked up in the mid-1950s, after Pakistan joined US-led military alliances, touching $3 billion in 1963 and then fell to virtually zero in 1980, in the wake of American concerns about Islamabad’s nuclear weapons programme. However, Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions did not change and this was, therefore, the first time an aid cut didn’t work.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan changed everything and US aid was restored. It was virtually one billion right through the ’80s. But in the 1990s, after the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan and George Bush the elder’s refusal to certify Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapons, American aid collapsed. But, again, Pakistani behaviour was unaffected.

Once again, 9/11 altered everything. Since then Pakistan has received more than $30 billion. But are things likely to be different this time?

No and for one simple reason. America’s Afghanistan involvement reinforces US dependence on Pakistan for its supply lines. As American troop levels in Afghanistan surge Pakistan’s leverage over Washington will simultaneously grow. In these circumstances it’s hard to see Trump cut US aid.


However, for argument’s sake, let’s suppose Trump is determined to act. In that event how much will a reduction in US aid affect Pakistan? Last year remittances from Pakistani expatriate workers totalled $19.8 billion. In comparison, the well-informed Congressional Research Service estimates that US aid amounted to $1.098 billion.

No wonder Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, responded dismissively to the possibility that Trump could cut financial support. “We are not looking for any material or financial assistance from the USA,” he said. Indeed, it’s quite possible his country could carry on comfortably without it.

The same is also increasingly true of the arms and weaponry Pakistan acquires from America. No doubt the United States has supplied F16 fighter planes, P3 Orion aircraft and AH-IF Cobra helicopters but, increasingly, a preponderant proportion of Pakistani arms are Chinese made. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute believes that nearly 70% of its military supplies between 2012 and 2016 came from China. Once again, US leverage has diminished.

America, of course, has enormous kinetic power which it could unleash. Washington could directly target jihadi bases by using its drones or, even, some repeat of the strategy to take out Osama bin Laden. But this would infuriate the Pakistani army and inflame public opinion. That’s why it’s unlikely to happen while US involvement in Afghanistan is dependent upon Pakistani supply-lines.

Finally, Trump had nothing specific to say about Pakistani terror groups, like the Lashkar and Jaish, which target India. At best, they were covered generically. If he is serious about reforming this prodigal ally we should also question his silence on this front.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Govt not going to IMF for any bailout: Finance Division spokesman



https://www.samaa.tv/economy/2017/09/govt-not-going-imf-bailout-finance-division-spokesman/

The spokesman of the Finance Division gave following comments in response to the report:

The fact that Pakistan’s economic indicators are positive has been acknowledged internationally. Recently, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) stated that Pakistan enjoyed growth despite trade contraction.

The external sector which was under strain in the last two years due to falling exports and declining remittances has now started showing positive and impressive growth both in exports and remittances.

In August 2017, exports have witnessed a growth of 12.89 percent over the same period of 2016, while over previous month the exports are higher by 14.41 percent and imports are only 2.42 percent and during July-August, FY 2018 exports have registered a growth of 11.80 percent.

Similarly, workers’ remittances have shown a growth of 13.18% during July-August, FY 2018 and on month on month basis higher by 26.8 percent in August 2017.

These all bode well that pressure on current account will ease, going forward. The growth in FDI is also on upward trajectory. During July 2017, FDI posted a stellar growth of 162.8 percent.

With regard to taxation, it is to be noted that the share of direct taxes in total taxes has increased over the years.

In 1990-91 the direct taxes were just around 20% of total taxes, rose to 31.1 percent in 2004-05, 38.2 percent in 2012-13 and 39.1 percent in 2015-16.

In FY 2016-17 the share of direct taxes reached 40% and it has become the single largest tax collected by FBR.

The government is focused on further increasing the share of direct taxes through various policy and administrative reforms including broadening of tax base.

Substantial progress has been made to bring potential taxpayers in the tax net during the last four years. As a result of these efforts the number of income tax return filers which was around 766,000 for the tax year 2012 has risen to 1.26 million in the tax year 2016 and would further increase in coming years.

The reforms program has started paying dividends in shape of higher tax revenues, an efficient, modern, transparent and taxpayers’ friendly revenue organization.

The revenue collection has witnessed a substantial increase during last four years. The net collection increased from Rs 1,946 billion in 2012-13 to Rs 3,362 billion in FY 2016-17, registering an overall growth of around 73%.

In absolute terms revenue collection has been increased by Rs 1.4 trillion. The tax-GDP ratio of the country has reached 12.5 percent in FY 2016-17.

With regard to debt, the claim that PML(N) government borrowed record Rs 10.8 trillion is incorrect and based on incorrect projections. The actual increase in present Government’s 4 year tenure is around Rs 6.1 trillion.

Even if the year 2018 is added as projected, the total debt increase in 5 years is expected to remain around Rs 7.5 trillion until 2018. The statement is only intended to mislead the general public by propagating increase in total debt by Rs 10.8 trillion by the current government, which is based on mere projections and may include PSE debt and other external debt and liabilities as well, which are not part of total government debt.

Moreover, the contention of large borrowing from external sources is incorrect. Out of total debt, external debt proportion fell from 21.4 percent of GDP in 2013 to 20.6 percent of GDP in 2017. Against the total external debt, the largest component is multilateral and bilateral concessional debt, which constitutes around 85 percent.

External debt sustainability has increased manifold during the tenure of present government as recent debt sustainability analysis shows that external debt would remain on a downward trend over the medium term and staying well below the risk assessment benchmarks.

Riaz Haq said...

In the epilogue "Unintended Consequences" of "Charlie Wilson's War" on page 522, the author George Crile explains the emergence of the Taliban and Osama bi Laden as follows:

" By the end of 1993, the six-year-old Cross Border Humanitarian Aid Program--the one sustained U.S. effort to create an infrastructure and blueprint or the rebuilding of Afghanistan---was cut off....There were no roads, no schools, just a destroyed country--and the United States was washing its hands of any responsibility. It was in this vacuum that the Taliban and Osama bin Laden would emerge as the dominant players."

https://books.google.com/books?id=nTtnBA1gbTcC&pg=PA483&dq=charlie+wilson%27s+war+bill+to+aid+after+war+over+failed&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwismIzdqaPWAhVX0mMKHRk3CxIQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=tribal%20aid%20bill&f=false

Riaz Haq said...

Why Nelson Mandela was on a terrorism watch list in 2008
By Caitlin Dewey December 7, 2013

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2013/12/07/why-nelson-mandela-was-on-a-terrorism-watch-list-in-2008/?utm_term=.85e036b7bfaf

Nelson Mandela is being remembered across the world (and political spectrum) for his heroic, life-long battle against apartheid and injustice in South Africa. But with all the accolades being thrown around, it’s easy to forget that the U.S., in particular, hasn’t always had such a friendly relationship with Mandela -- and that in fact, as late as 2008, the Nobel Prize winner and former president was still on the U.S. terrorism watch list.
The sticking point was, in Mandela’s case, ideological. In the mid-'80s, as activists in South Africa and around the world began to agitate in earnest for Mandela’s release, the Reagan administration still saw communism as one of its primary enemies -- and defeating communism as one of its foremost foreign policy goals. That complicated the administration’s take on South Africa.

The apartheid regime, it turns out, had supported the U.S. during the Cold War and had worked closely with both the Reagan and Nixon administrations to limit Soviet influence in the region, as Sam Kleiner chronicled in Foreign Policy last July.

Meanwhile, the African National Congress, which Mandela chaired, was peppered with members of the South African Communist Party. Even worse in the eyes of the Reagan Administration was the ANC’s apparent friendliness toward Moscow: The ANC’s secretary general, Alfred Nzo, bore greetings to the Soviet communist party congress in 1986. That was enough to inspire Reagan to accuse the ANC of encouraging communism in a 1986 policy speech, and to rule that South Africa had no obligation to negotiate with a group bent on “creating a communist state.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan draws new battle lines in the #Afghan war. #India #Trump #Taliban #Afghanistan

https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/pakistan-draws-new-battle-line-afghan-war

If India increases its involvement in Afghanistan, Pakistan will strengthen its opposition to pushing the Taliban into negotiations.

Pakistan will continue supporting the Taliban to prevent an alliance between Afghanistan and India.

Islamabad and Washington's threats against one another will limit the punitive measures both sides impose.


...Pakistani militancy is as much a problem for Islamabad as it is for Washington. Pakistan has been working to circumscribe the militant groups operating within its borders since long before Trump rebuked the country in an address Aug. 21. In April 2016, for example, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency proposed plans to deradicalize scores of militants and bring them more under the control of the country's security apparatus. As part of that campaign, Islamabad allowed the Jamaat-ud-Dawa — a charity organization under U.N. sanctions for its links to the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba — to form a new political party, the Milli Muslim League (MML).

Combating militancy with politics is easier said than done, though. The process has been rife with controversy, exposing the historical divide between Pakistan's military and civilian leaders. Pakistan's Interior Ministry asked the country's electoral commission to block the MML's registration over concerns that the party's ties to and ideological affinities with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group blamed for the deadly attacks in Mumbai in 2008, would invite criticism from foreign governments. But though the MML's registration is still pending, it hasn't let administrative matters get in its way. The party's candidate, officially running as an independent, placed third in the recent special elections in Lahore, and the MML plans to participate in Pakistan's general elections next year as well.

The MML's emergence demonstrates the Pakistani army's commitment to addressing militancy in the country. Its priorities in this endeavor differ from those of the United States, however, and as it tackles the problem, Islamabad will continue to resist pressure to attack the militant groups Washington has targeted. In Pakistan's view, after all, all militant groups are not created equal. Groups such as the Afghan Taliban and its ally the Haqqani network help Pakistan's army advance its objectives in Afghanistan. They are assets to Islamabad's foreign policy, and the Pakistani government treats them as such. Islamabad's accommodations, moreover, discourage these groups from attacking Pakistan, enabling the country to focus its scarce resources on the organizations that pose a more serious threat to its security, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and the Islamic State's Khorasan chapter.

---
In fact, Pakistan already has started employing some of these deterrents since Trump made his address on Afghanistan in late August. Islamabad turned down a visit from the U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asia, who was leading a delegation of officials eager to hash out U.S.-Pakistan coordination in Afghanistan. Pakistan's foreign minister instead embarked on a three-nation tour to China, Turkey and Iran in hopes of increasing their diplomatic support for his country. He later delayed a meeting originally scheduled for August with his U.S. counterpart, Rex Tillerson, until the week of Oct. 2. More recently, Pakistan announced that it would adopt stricter protocols on U.S. diplomats to require a mutual agreement before American officials could visit the country and to prohibit lower-ranking U.S. functionaries from meeting with high-level Pakistani officials, such as the prime minister. The country also has floated the possibility of shutting down NATO supply routes, though it probably won't follow through on the threat unless Washington first makes good on one of its own.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan: Mad Dog #Mattis Will Bark, but #Islamabad Won't Bite. #Afghanistan #Trump #terrorism #TTP https://goo.gl/ZU1FK1 via @Stratfor Worldview

As President Donald Trump's administration searches for an exit from the war in Afghanistan after over 16 years of U.S. involvement, the United States is making another high-level diplomatic outreach to Pakistan. On Dec. 4, Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Islamabad for meetings with Pakistan's top military and civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. In these meetings, Mattis' mission is to convince Pakistani leadership to do more to attack militant safe havens and, in the long term, facilitate peace talks with the Taliban to end America's longest-running war. But Pakistan's leaders won't be easy to convince.

In the discussions, Mattis adopted a conciliatory approach by acknowledging Pakistan's sacrifices in the fight against terrorism, but he also reiterated Washington's demands. The United States has called for Pakistan to take more action against the militants that find refuge on its soil. Among them, crucially, is the leadership of the Taliban operating in Afghanistan.

Diplomatic outreach is just one of the ways the United States is trying to compel a change in Pakistan's behavior. Military aid is another. Last week, the latest report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service showed that the United States would further trim its annual aid package to Pakistan. In 2017, Washington doled out $526 million to Islamabad in exchange for its cooperation, which includes providing overland NATO supply route access through Pakistani territory. In 2018, that number is projected to drop to $345 million.

The United States has gradually trimmed the amount of aid it provides to Pakistan over the last several years. In 2014, for example, U.S. aid to Pakistan amounted to nearly $2.2 billion. For now, it appears that the U.S. strategy is to pursue incremental punitive measures against Pakistan, rather than pursue harsher tactics such as revoking Pakistan's non-NATO major ally status or cutting aid altogether. The United States isn't fully ready to bring out the stick, but the carrot is slowly being drawn back.

Pakistan wants to maintain its relationship with the United States, but it's willing to suffer the cost of deteriorating ties. From Islamabad's perspective, supporting the Taliban follows a rational calculation to ensure post-conflict Afghanistan is friendly to Pakistani interests. Support for Taliban leaders is aimed at denying Pakistan's rival, India, a foothold in Afghanistan. Because of this, Mattis' visit probably won't convince Pakistan to change its behavior, especially considering the Trump administration's calls for India to play a greater economic role in Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Accuses #US of Exporting War, Instability to #SouthAsia. #Afghanistan #India #TTP #terrorism

https://www.voanews.com/a/pakistan-accuses-us-exporting-war-instability-south-asia/4168486.html

Pakistan is accusing the United States of "exporting war" and "perpetual instability" in South Asia, and of "speaking Indian language" in bilateral dealings.

The allegations leveled by National Security Adviser Nasir Janjua again underscore the deterioration in Islamabad's relations with Washington. It also strengthened reported suggestions the two countries are on a collision course, particularly since August when President Donald Trump unveiled a new policy for Afghanistan and South Asia.

The U.S. policy accused Pakistan of harboring terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network, that are fueling the Afghan war and plotting attacks against India. It also focused on using intensified military means to defeat the Afghan Taliban and called on New Delhi to expand its role in Afghanistan, ignoring Islamabad's opposition and objection.

Janjua reiterated Pakistan's objections while addressing a security seminar Monday in Islamabad. He rejected terror allegations against his country, saying the United States was scapegoating Islamabad for failing to stabilize Afghanistan.

"Pakistan made irrelevant in Afghanistan, scapegoating [and] lumping all the blame [on Islamabad], speaking Indian language on every subject, planing to downgrade all ties, U.S. lawmakers are asking to designate Pakistan as a state sponsoring terrorism," Janjua said.

He went on to complain that despite being a non-NATO ally, Pakistan's attempts to procure U.S. defense equipment have been blocked and its nuclear weapons program is being opposed.

"India has become the preferred ally in Afghanistan and the military solution [for ending the war in Afghanistan] is again given the preference," he noted.

Janjua said the way forward for the United States in Afghanistan is to focus on finding a political solution rather than relying on military might. Washington, he added, should appoint a "political authority" to Afghanistan as empowered as its military commander in the country to promote a political resolution.

Alleging the U.S. wants to contain China's rise and the resurgence of Russia in the region, Janjua said Washington is opposed to Islamabad's multi-billion dollar economic corridor project being funded by Beijing under its global Belt and Road Initiative.

"To mitigate the challenges — China and Russia — and to ensure self-survival, [the] U.S. is exporting war and perpetual instability in South Asia," he said. "India is being supported and encouraged to promote U.S. regional interests. "

US side

There was no immediate reaction from U.S. officials to Janjua's statements.


U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis earlier this month visited Pakistan where he called on civilian and military leaders to redouble their efforts against terrorism. Officials revealed few details of the talks, but described them as positive and productive, dismissing the element of confrontation.

But on Monday, Janjua, who attended the meetings with Mattis, underscored the prevailing mutual disagreements and tensions.

The Trump administration has also warned it may designate certain officials of the Pakistani spy agency, ISI, as global terrorists for their ties to militant groups, including Haqqanis.

Just days before Mattis' visited Islamabad, the CIA director warned if Pakistan failed to act decisively against the Afghan Taliban and Haqqanis, the United States would unilaterally do so.

Riaz Haq said...

THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE > OPINION
Pakistan has friends in Kabul
By Taimur ShamilPublished: January 25, 2018

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1617144/6-pakistan-friends-kabul/

After returning from my recent trip to Kabul, many people that I met back home were concerned about Pakistan’s image in Kabul — opportunities for cooperation and the intensity of anti-Pakistan sentiment in Afghanistan. My answer to them was simple. Pakistan, socially and politically, has friends in Kabul and the opportunities for Pakistan are many, if we try.

Here are the facts: in terms of social relations, every day between 2,000 to 3,000 visas are issued from Kabul alone to Pakistan. The numbers of visas issued from the rest of Pakistani consulates are additional, that may vary from 800 to 1,000 as per Pakistani officials. The Afghans who travel on these visas are usually travelling for health and educational reasons. The patients who travel to Pakistan feel more comfortable in Pakistan than any other country. The reasons being obvious, most of them share the same culture, language, religion and most of the times clans and tribes as well. Also that many of them have been frequently travelling to Pakistan for the last many years. Majority of them have their families in Pakistan that either migrated during the Soviet-Afghan war or later during the last decade. These Afghans who come to Pakistan also find Pakistan economically affordable as compared to other countries in the region. It is to be kept in mind that most of the Afghans live in abject poverty and lack basic health facilities. Therefore, Pakistan is the logical and economical option.

Interestingly almost every third person that I met, Dari (Persian spoken in Afghanistan) dominated, Kabul could speak and understand Urdu. Most of the people who could speak Urdu were young Afghans. They had either been educated or had spent considerable time doing jobs in Pakistan. They have good memories attached to the neighbouring country which welcomed and hosted them.

After meeting the young Afghans, I realised that when it comes to Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, higher education is Pakistan’s strength. While Pakistan has itself improved the quality of higher education, it has worked on giving scholarships to Afghan students who want to pursue their academic ambitions. Islamabad is generally multi-linguistic city and multi-ethnic as well. One can find Hazaras, Persian speaking, and Pakhtuns in large numbers in different universities of the capital. This naturally gives the Afghan students a conducive environment to blend in.

Last year the Higher Education Commission announced scholarships to 3,000 Afghan students and a large number of those are females. These young students are the bridges and ambassadors of peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and a huge potential for the future of democracy and peace in Afghanistan. The tapping of this potential needs the Foreign Office’s attention now more than ever.

A lot of Pakistanis are concerned about anti-Pakistan sentiments brewing in Kabul. The concerns are, no doubt, justified and show Pakistan’s concern and urge to improve its relations with the people of Afghanistan. After all, Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the decades and expects that the refugees become the ambassadors of goodwill between the two countries when they return to their home country. For that Pakistan too needs consideration on smooth transition of refugees from Pakistani soil to Afghanistan. It doesn’t need to be rough and loaded with blame. That ruins the very spirit with which Pakistan hosted them for decades.

Riaz Haq said...

Ex US VP Joe Biden: “#Pakistan is fifty times more important than #Afghanistan for the #UnitedStates.” #Trump #India #China

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/03/the-pakistan-trap/550895/

The discussion was already tense as Karzai urged Washington to help root out Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, implying that more pressure needed to be exerted on Pakistani leaders. Biden’s answer stunned Karzai into silence. Biden let Karzai know how Barack Obama’s incoming administration saw its priorities. “Mr. President,” Biden said, “Pakistan is fifty times more important than Afghanistan for the United States.”

It was an undiplomatic moment for sure, but also a frank expression of the devastating paradox at the heart of the longest war in American history. In 16 years, the United States has spent billions of dollars fighting a war that has killed thousands of soldiers and an untold number of civilians in a country that Washington considers insignificant to its strategic interests in the region. Meanwhile, the country it has viewed as a linchpin, Pakistan—a nuclear-armed cauldron of volatile politics and long America’s closest military ally in South Asia—has pursued a covert campaign in Afghanistan designed to ensure that the money and the lives have been spent in vain. The stakes in Pakistan have been considered too high to break ties with Islamabad or take other steps that would risk destabilizing the country. The stakes in Afghanistan have been deemed low enough that careening from one failed strategy to another has been acceptable.


-------

Coll’s majestic Ghost Wars tracked the CIA’s adventures in Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion, in 1979, through the eve of the September 11 attacks. Reading it was a gut-wrenching experience, with momentum building toward a climactic, dreadful outcome. Reading Directorate S is more like watching a slow-motion video of a truck going off a cliff, frame by agonizing frame. And no semblance of closure ever comes. Coll may have embarked on a full accounting of the war to its end, but history didn’t cooperate. Obama announced a plan in 2014 to conclude America’s combat operations in Afghanistan. By the time his tenure in the White House wound down, the generals had persuaded him to leave thousands of troops in the country indefinitely.

Within months of taking office, his successor—who had campaigned on scaling back America’s overseas adventures—accepted a Pentagon plan to add thousands more U.S. troops. In a speech announcing his strategy, Donald Trump ran through a familiar litany of complaints about Pakistan, capped by the demand that the country end its support for the very groups America is fighting in Afghanistan. He also called on India, Pakistan’s archenemy, to take a greater role in Afghanistan’s internal affairs—a threat evidently intended to scare Pakistani officials into backing off. Frustration mounted as the year turned, and an outraged presidential tweet denouncing years of “nothing but lies & deceit” was followed by a suspension of security assistance to Pakistan. What the repercussions might be was anybody’s guess.

Coll sums up the war as a “humbling case study in the limits of American power.” But a decade and a half after the first shots were fired, the U.S. president wasn’t exactly projecting humility, much less a newly coherent American policy.

Riaz Haq said...

How the #heroin #Narco #trade explains the #US-#UK failure in #Afghanistan. #Washington’s massive military juggernaut has been stopped in its steel tracks by a small pink flower – the opium poppy. #Taliban #Trump #Pakistan

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jan/09/how-the-heroin-trade-explains-the-us-uk-failure-in-afghanistan

After fighting the longest war in its history, the US stands at the brink of defeat in Afghanistan. How could this be possible? How could the world’s sole superpower have battled continuously for more than 16 years – deploying more than 100,000 troops at the conflict’s peak, sacrificing the lives of nearly 2,300 soldiers, spending more than $1tn (£740bn) on its military operations, lavishing a record $100bn more on “nation-building”, helping fund and train an army of 350,000 Afghan allies – and still not be able to pacify one of the world’s most impoverished nations? So dismal is the prospect of stability in Afghanistan that, in 2016, the Obama White House cancelled a planned withdrawal of its forces, ordering more than 8,000 troops to remain in the country indefinitely.

------------------

Despite almost continuous combat since the invasion of October 2001, pacification efforts have failed to curtail the Taliban insurgency, largely because the US simply could not control the swelling surplus from the country’s heroin trade. Its opium production surged from around 180 tonnes in 2001 to more than 3,000 tonnes a year after the invasion, and to more than 8,000 by 2007. Every spring, the opium harvest fills the Taliban’s coffers once again, funding wages for a new crop of guerrilla fighters.

At each stage in its tragic, tumultuous history over the past 40 years – the covert war of the 1980s, the civil war of the 90s and its post-2001 occupation – opium has played a central role in shaping the country’s destiny. In one of history’s bitter ironies, Afghanistan’s unique ecology converged with American military technology to transform this remote, landlocked nation into the world’s first true narco-state – a country where illicit drugs dominate the economy, define political choices and determine the fate of foreign interventions.

--------------


The failure of America’s intervention in Afghanistan offers broader insight into the limits to its global power. The persistence of both opium cultivation and the Taliban insurgency suggest the degree to which the policies that Washington has imposed upon Afghanistan since 2001 have reached a dead end. For most people worldwide, economic activity, the production and exchange of goods, is the prime point of contact with their government. When, however, a country’s most significant commodity is illegal, then political loyalties naturally shift to the economic networks that move that product safely and secretly from fields to foreign markets, providing protection, finance and employment at every stage. “The narcotics trade poisons the Afghan financial sector and fuels a growing illicit economy,” John Sopko explained in 2014. “This, in turn, undermines the Afghan state’s legitimacy by stoking corruption, nourishing criminal networks and providing significant financial support to the Taliban and other insurgent groups.”

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News - #Taliban threaten 70% of #Afghanistan, BBC finds. #UnitedStates, #UK, #Pakistan

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42863116#


Taliban fighters, whom US-led forces spent billions of dollars trying to defeat, are now openly active in 70% of Afghanistan, a BBC study has found.

Months of research across the country shows that the Taliban now control or threaten much more territory than when foreign combat troops left in 2014.

The Afghan government played down the report, saying it controls most areas.

But recent attacks claimed by Taliban and Islamic State group militants have killed scores in Kabul and elsewhere.

Afghan officials and US President Donald Trump have responded by ruling out any talks with the Taliban. Last year Mr Trump announced the US military would stay in the country indefinitely.

The BBC research also suggests that IS is more active in Afghanistan than ever before, although it remains far less powerful than the Taliban.

How much territory do the Taliban control?
The BBC study shows the Taliban are now in full control of 14 districts (that's 4% of the country) and have an active and open physical presence in a further 263 (66%), significantly higher than previous estimates of Taliban strength.

About 15 million people - half the population - are living in areas that are either controlled by the Taliban or where the Taliban are openly present and regularly mount attacks.

"When I leave home, I'm uncertain whether I will come back alive," said one man, Sardar, in Shindand, a western district that suffers weekly attacks. "Explosions, terror and the Taliban are part of our daily life."

The extent to which the Taliban have pushed beyond their traditional southern stronghold into eastern, western and northern parts of the country is clearly visible from the BBC study.

Areas that have fallen to the Taliban since 2014 include places in Helmand province like Sangin, Musa Qala and Nad-e Ali, which foreign forces fought and died to bring under government control after US-led troops had driven the Taliban from power in 2001. More than 450 British troops died in Helmand between 2001 and 2014.

In the areas defined as having an active and open Taliban presence, the militants conduct frequent attacks against Afghan government positions. These range from large organised group strikes on military bases to sporadic single attacks and ambushes against military convoys and police checkpoints.

Riaz Haq said...

After 16 Years, Afghanistan War Is 'At Best A Grinding Stalemate,' Journalist Says

by Terry Gross

https://www.npr.org/2018/02/06/583625482/after-16-years-afghanistan-war-is-at-best-a-grinding-stalemate-journalist-says

"Most of the generals ... say in public, 'There's no military solution to this war,'" Coll says. "This is at best a grinding stalemate. And yet, we prioritize military action at the expense of diplomacy, at the expense of negotiating."

On the current state of the war in Afghanistan

We're in a stalemate. We're in a muddle. We have something like 10,000 troops there, maybe growing a little higher over the next year or so.

There are actually two wars that we're fighting in Afghanistan, I'm not sure most Americans appreciate that. One is a direct combat war against remnants or elements of the Islamic State that have popped up in eastern Afghanistan. There President Obama initiated, and President Trump continued, a return to direct combat in Afghanistan, after previously, at the end of 2014, saying we were done with the war.

The second war is the one that we transitioned to in 2014, which is to advise and assist the Afghan security forces — the Afghan army and police — in their combat against the Taliban, an indigenous Afghan movement that we're all too familiar with after all these years, which controls significant swaths of the Afghan countryside.

So our muddled war policy is that we're directly at war with the Islamic State, but we're not directly at war with the Taliban, except to the extent that we're supporting Afghan forces. But what that means as a practical matter is that we're their air force; we have the planes. So when the Afghan forces need bombs dropped on Taliban positions, that's generally us doing the bombing. The number of bombs that we've been dropping on Afghanistan has increased significantly in 2017 over the year before.

On why Pakistan supports the Taliban

Pakistan's generals seemed to conclude ... that Afghanistan was going to become an ally of India with international backing [and] that they needed to encourage the Taliban support. ...


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What's happened, where we are now, is that there are 25,000, 30,000 Afghan Taliban guerrilla soldiers fighting the war, going in and out of Pakistan, but fighting the war on Afghan ground. Those units include these suicide bomber, truck bomber units that occasionally kill scores of innocent civilians in Kabul, as we've seen over the last couple of weeks, a couple of horrific attacks.

And then inside Pakistan, the effort by the Pakistani Taliban to overthrow their government has really faltered. The Pakistani state has restored security over the last couple of years to a significant degree. Not entirely — I think 500 civilians died in terrorist attacks in Pakistan last year — but [that's] compared to many thousands a few years ago, when the country looked like it might collapse.

Riaz Haq said...

Directorate S author Steve Coll with Terry Gross on NPR Fresh Air

https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=583625482

When the Bush administration went into Afghanistan right after September 11, in those conversations, they said, well, what are our really important, vital interests that justify this war? And they said there are really two. One is al-Qaida. We've got to disrupt them, got to destroy them. And the other was, we've got to keep Pakistan stable so that its nuclear weapons don't fall into the wrong hands.

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the Obama administration came back to the same question of war aims that had really befuddled the Bush administration. The reviews concluded that there were really only two vital interests in Afghanistan, the kinds of interests that would justify putting young American men and women in harm's way. One was al-Qaida and the other was the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. But in 2009, when these reviews were taking place, neither of those problems really existed in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida had left Afghanistan and was now in Pakistan in a serious way.

And of course, Pakistan's nuclear weapons were across the border. So they talked themselves into fighting a kind of indirect war. Well, we'll go to Afghanistan, we'll fight the Taliban to prevent Afghanistan from collapsing because if it collapsed, al-Qaida would come back. And the general instability of that war might mess up Pakistan and jeopardize the security of its nukes. So it's a very convoluted conclusion. And at the heart of it was President Obama, who really did not want to fight a war against the Taliban.

Some of his generals did. President Obama saw that that was a very long slog, and he didn't see that the U.S. public would support such a war indefinitely. We were in the middle of the recession at that point. So...

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You know who our boss is, President Obama. Who are you (Taliban rep Tayyab Agha)? We don't even know that you know who Mullah Mohammed Omar is or that you have anybody's authority to be doing this. How can you prove to us that you have authority to really negotiate toward an end to the war? And so they work out these secret protocols where he places messages in the Taliban's media system in the name of Mullah Mohammed Omar.

He brings them a proof-of-life video of Bowe Bergdahl, the Army specialist who had been captured by part of the Taliban, the Haqqani network. And even at one point, he brought a letter from Mullah Mohammed Omar addressed to President Obama. It was sort of on Taliban stationery. But it wasn't, you know, very formal stationery. And the gist of the letter was, Mr. President, you know, I've had to take a lot of hard decisions to talk peace. You should take some hard decisions. Let's get this done.

And the negotiations went on for, let's see, three years or so until they reached a point where there was a deal to open a Taliban office in Qatar, which was the step that would proceed what the Americans hoped would be very serious negotiations to end the war and find a settlement. And the whole negotiation over that office was a fiasco. It alienated President Karzai. It blew up and the Taliban walked away from the whole deal.

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In Afghanistan, for some reason, we just don't seem to have the capacity - haven't had the capacity to do that. And I do fear that the Trump administration, which doesn't seem to think the State Department is a very important part of its foreign policy, is pretty much the last administration that's going to take on the really complicated and uncertain challenges of that kind of negotiation.

Riaz Haq said...

Q&A with Steve Coll on ‘America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan’


https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/books/qa-with-steve-coll-on-americas-secret-wars-in-afghanistan-and-pakistan/

Q: What is India’s role in Afghanistan?

A: It’s nowhere near as significant as Pakistan thinks it is. It has had a long relationship with the Afghan government, and supported Afghanistan when the government was reconstituted in 2001. It’s soft power — roads, hospitals, some military training. They don’t want to … further provoke the paranoia of ISI. As long as we (the United States) are in there fighting the terrorists, they can free-ride on our military commitment.

Q: Your book shows how officers within the ISI have continued to support the Taliban in Afghanistan, despite numerous deadly attacks within Pakistan and on Pakistanis by branches of the Taliban operating there. What is the motivation?

A: The Pakistani officer class — and they are ultimately the directors of the spy service as well — have a proud nationalistic tradition. There’s a conviction that India is under every pillow, that it’s out to destroy Pakistan. Over the years that (belief) has become a rationale for army influence in Pakistani politics … the whole country has moved to the right as the years have gone by.


The practical reason is that Pakistan feels vulnerable to Afghanistan. They share a long and open border, and the people along the border don’t even recognize its legitimacy. The fear is that without a buffer strategy of political influence, that India will use Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan.

Q: Islam is the state religion of Pakistan — how does religious faith affect the motives of the ISI?


A: It’s a very diverse officer corps. The junior officers are more pious; the senior officers are ardently nationalist, more nationalist than even 20 years ago, given the violence and pressure they have come under. When you talk nationalism you’re talking about a country that was founded on the basis of Islam. I think Americans have always struggled to figure out how personal faith among Pakistani officers may affect their political judgment. The lazy way is to take them out for a drink. That doesn’t work with these guys.

Q: How do you see Afghanistan’s future unfolding?

A: I’m not a great forecaster, but I don’t think anything is likely to change. The presence of the U.S. military makes it very difficult for the Taliban to win. They don’t have an air force, they don’t have anti-aircraft weapons. They don’t have the amazing technology of the opposition.

The Afghan government is stuck. In 40 percent or more of the country’s rural districts, the Taliban are embedded. They are present in other parts of the country where they don’t have ethnic or religious roots … It’s even more complicated, because now all this violence has created an ethnic polarization in the rest of the country, and there’s a constitutional crisis in Kabul that’s been going on for three-and-a-half years.