Sunday, October 29, 2017

Tillerson in South Asia; Ghamidi in Silicon Valley; Dysfunction in Washington

What were the objectives of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's recent tour of the Middle East and South Asia? Specifically, what did he intend to achieve in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan? Does US have a broader strategy other than just squeezing Pakistan to end the war in Afghanistan? What about the role of Iran, India and Russia in Afghanistan? How does China see US threats to Pakistan? Does China really see Pakistan as its Israel as US analyst Andrew Small has said in his book "China-Pakistan Axis: Asia's New Geopolitics"?

Photos of Bagram Base Meeting Released By Afghans (Left, no digital clock)) and Americans (Right, Military clock)

What is Javed Ahmad Ghamidi's mission? What are his positions on the role of Islamic state in implementing Shariah? What does he think of the 2nd amendment of the Pakistan constitution that declares Ahmadis as non-Muslim? What are his views on blasphemy laws in Pakistan? What does he say about Hadiths? Do these positions rank him among the most progressive Islamic scholars in the world today? Is he out of step with the vast majority of mainstream Islamic scholars? How much following does he have? Does he have any chance to succeed in changing the minds of the majority of Muslims who are tired of violence in the name of Islam?

Talk4Pak Team With Ghamidi Sahib in Silicon Valley

Why is there so much dysfunction in Washington? Is President Donald Trump responsible for this chaos in the US capital? Is it impacting the effectiveness of both the executive and the legislative branches of the US government? Does Trump have a coherent foreign policy? How is it affecting America's ability to solve major foreign and domestic issues?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam discusses these questions with panelists Ali H. Cemendtaur and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)

https://youtu.be/SZtJpkKsG9Q




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Gwadar: The Next Shenzhen? 

Ghamidi in Silicon Valley

Pakistan's Cards in Negotiating With Trump Administration

Malaysia's Ex-PM Mahathir Stirs up Hadith Controversy

Riaz Haq's Sermon on Interfaith Relations

Misaq e Madina Inspired Quaid e Azam's Vision of Pluralist Pakistan

Riaz Haq's Ramadan Sermon

Alam vs Hoodbhoy: Clash of Ideas in Islam

Talk4Pak Youtube Channel

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel


8 comments:

Bhatia said...

Release of Canadian-American couple with their three children was cleverly brought about by Trump Administration. The hostages among Haqqani network in Pakistan's Kurram Agency were picked up by CIA drones several weeks back & on their final confirmation, the US threatened to launch Abbottabad style operation in case Paki military refuses to rescue them.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan forging regional alliance with #Russia, #Iran against 'foreign presence' in #Afghanistan: ex-#ISI chief

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1544437/1-pakistan-aiming-regional-alliance-foreign-presence-afghan-former-isi-chief/

Pakistan has held successful negotiations with at least four countries and a new regional alliance against the foreign presence in Afghanistan is fast emerging, a former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has claimed.

“Now this is the regional alliance that is emerging, not in the sense of an alliance, but at least they have started handling the foreign presence in Afghanistan in a coordinated manner,” Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani, Pakistan’s ex-spymaster, told Russia Today’s Sophie Shevarnadze in an interview.

“In the meantime actually what we have done… is that [we have] found allies in the region starting with Iran, Russia, China and now lately Turkey,” he added.

Durrani said Pakistan does not care about the US sanctions anymore because it hardly gets any aid from the latter. “Sanctions are alright… Already there’s hardly anything we get from the US… Dependence on America — that finished long time ago,” he said, adding that Islamabad was rather looking for countries which would offer cooperation in economic development in the region “to ensure that this foreign presence from Afghanistan is vacated.”

Responding to a question over new US strategy on Afghanistan, the former intelligence chief denied there was a change in the American policy towards the war-torn nation, saying peace in Afghanistan was in the interest of the United States.


“The policy still continues to be run by, to use a Russian nomenklatura, the deep state in the US runs the policy. Obama used to speak softly and his representatives used to come and threaten us — Hillary Clinton and others, the generals. In this particular case, the roles are simply reversed, because Trump is not in the habit of talking softly, so they said ‘you can go ahead, see what you do, tweet whatever you like to, but we run the policy’,” he said, adding the job of the US president was to only shout at some countries.

Durrani said the US wanted to keep a military presence in Afghanistan at all costs. “Essentially, the policy remains the same, and that is — you have dig in Afghanistan, stay there, keep the bases, keep the military presence, that’s more important than either peace there or settlement there or whatever else.”

He went on to say that Pakistan pushed the Taliban leadership towards joining the Afghan peace process but the negotiation process was sabotaged either by the Kabul regime or the US itself.

Riaz Haq said...

Bhatia: "Release of Canadian-American couple with their three children was cleverly brought about by Trump Administration."


Caitlin Coleman has said in an interview that the couple and their children were held in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact, she says the Taliban built a house for them in the Afghan town of Spin Ghar where they spend a long time. She's exposed CIA Chief Pompeo's lie that the couple was in Pakistan for the entire 5 years. It also raise the question: Why couldn't the Americans rescue them during their time in Afghanistan? https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2017/10/23/in-first-sit-down-interview-caitlan-coleman-tells-of-forced-abortion-disputes-official-account-of-her-rescue-in-pakistan.html
Show less
REPLY


Riaz Haq said...

Despite #Tillerson, #US Won't Abandon #Pakistan for #India | RAND. #China #CPEC #Modi

https://www.rand.org/blog/2017/10/despite-tillerson-us-wont-abandon-pakistan-for-india.html


t has become commonplace to caution American policymakers against irrational exuberance when dealing with India: Keep expectations low (conventional wisdom goes) and you won't be disappointed. In the wake of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to New Delhi this week, perhaps the same advice could be directed to India's leadership. Despite a warm welcome by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the pleasantries at Gandhi Smriti, and the promises of “an even brighter future,” don't expect a radical change in U.S. policy. There are structural reasons for India to moderate its expectations of what it can realistically expect from the Trump administration, regardless of anything the secretary of state—or even the president—might say.

There is no new U.S. policy towards Pakistan—and there won't be one soon. On August 21, Trump announced a “change [in] the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent,” he stated. Ears pricked up in Islamabad and New Delhi alike. But in the two months since the administration's roll-out of its new strategy for South Asia, no significant actions towards Pakistan have been made public. If a sea-change is underway, it is hidden beneath the waves.

This should not be a surprise: So long as the U.S. has troops in neighboring Afghanistan, it will be reliant on Pakistan for logistical support, transit, and—perhaps most importantly—Islamabad's influence with both the Taliban and its affiliated Haqqani Network. With the addition of about 5,000 U.S. troops to the effort in Afghanistan—roughly a 50 percent increase over the baseline at the end of the Obama administration—U.S. exposure will grow rather than recede.

A concrete demonstration was provided just two weeks ago: On October 12, an American woman, her Canadian husband, and their three children were released after five years of Haqqani captivity. Whether this was a conveniently-timed military rescue or a secretly-negotiated operation, it reminds the U.S. of Pakistan's ability to help—and to harm. Afterwards, Tillerson expressed his “deep gratitude to the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army,” and posited “a U.S.-Pakistan relationship marked by growing commitments to counterterrorism operations and stronger ties in all other respects.”

The U.S. and India don't see eye-to-eye on China. Earlier this month, Tillerson made a major speech contrasting America's relationships with India and China. “We'll never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratic society,” (PDF) he said, “that we can have with a major democracy” such as India. He criticized China's Belt-and-Road-Initiative (BRI) infrastructure program, and proposed a joint Indo-U.S. effort towards “countering that with alternative financing measures.”

But Tillerson said nothing about where the funds for such an ambitious venture might come from. China has pledged $46 billion for the Pakistan piece of its framework alone. The U.S. administration plans to reduce its foreign affairs budget by 28 percent—a cut that Tillerson fully supports. India is unlikely to spend countless crores for the construction of roads and railways in other nations when it has so many infrastructure needs of its own. Moreover, India has consistently balked at any suggestion of a de facto alliance geared at limiting China's influence. Perhaps this summer's stand-off at Doklam will turn out to be a game-changer? If so, Delhi may remember that the Trump administration—in contrast, for example, to that of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—refrained from any statement in support of India throughout its most serious confrontation with China in a quarter-century.

Riaz Haq said...

#Taliban commander in #Afghanistan: “Taliban want to leave #Pakistan for #Iran. They don’t trust Pakistan anymore.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/31/150000-americans-couldnt-beat-us-taliban-fighters-defiant-in-afghanistan

'150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us': Taliban fighters defiant in Afghanistan

Squatting on the floor, a brown shawl draped over his shoulders, the Taliban commander and his bodyguard swiped on their phones through attack footage edited to look like video games, with computerised crosshairs hovering over targets. “Allahu Akbar,” they said every time a government Humvee hit a landmine.

Mullah Abdul Saeed, who met the Guardian in the barren backcountry of Logar province where he leads 150 Taliban militants, has fought foreign soldiers and their Afghan allies since the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan when he was 14. The Taliban now controls its largest territory since being forced from power, and seems to have no shortage of recruits.

By prolonging and expanding its military presence in Afghanistan, the US aims to coerce the Taliban to lay down arms, but risks hardening insurgents who have always demanded withdrawal of foreign troops before peace talks.

In interviews with rank-and-file Taliban fighters in Logar and another of Afghanistan’s embattled provinces, Wardak, the Guardian found a fragmented but resilient movement, united in resistance against foreign intervention.

Referring to Barack Obama’s surge, Saeed said: “150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us.” And an extra 4,000 US soldiers, as Donald Trump will deploy, “will not change the morale of our mujahideen,” he said. “The Americans were walking in our villages, and we pushed them out.” For the Taliban to consider peace, he said, “foreigners must leave, and the constitution must be changed to sharia.”


The war America can't win: how the Taliban are regaining control in Afghanistan

Arriving on a motorbike kicking up dust, Saeed and his Kalashnikov-carrying bodyguard, Yamin, were aloof at first but warmed as the conversation evolved. Saeed said that as the war has changed, the Taliban have adjusted, too. US soldiers now predominantly train Afghans, and have ramped up airstrikes.

“It’s true, it has become harder to fight the Americans. But we use suicide bombers, and we will use more of them,” Saeed said. “If the US changes its tactics of fighting, so do we.” That change has meant ever-fiercer attacks, with large truck bombs in populated areas and audacious assaults on military bases.

In April, Taliban fighters in army uniforms stormed a northern army academy and killed at least 150 soldiers in the biggest assault on the army of the entire war. This month, suicide bombers wiped out a whole army unit, ramming two Humvees packed with explosives into a base in Kandahar.

As Saeed spoke, three young boys from the civilian family at the house where the interview took place brought tea. They giggled as they listened in on the fighters’ radio. Saeed spoke with a calm, professorial demeanour but his words brimmed with the anger of a man who has spent his adult life fighting a generation-long war, and lost 12 family members doing it.

Pressed on the record-high number of civilian deaths in the war, he said the Taliban “make mistakes” and try to avoid harming civilians, but added: “If there is an infidel in a flock of sheep, you are permitted to attack that flock of sheep.”

Riaz Haq said...

Newly released Osama #BinLaden document describes #Iran, #AlQaeda link https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/newly-released-bin-laden-document-describes-iran-al-qaeda-link-n816681 … via @nbcnews #BinLadenFiles

A document seized the night Navy SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden suggests that Al Qaeda and Iran had a relationship more complicated and intimate than previously known — one that included threats and kidnappings, but also occasional cooperation.

The document was among a massive trove of material released Wednesday by the CIA following a request by the Long War Journal, a website that has chronicled the U.S. war on terrorism. The site received a copy of the materials Tuesday.

The U.S. government released hundreds of thousands of files in the aftermath of the May 1, 2011 raid on Bin Laden's Pakistan compound, and released other tranches in 2015 and 2016.

Wednesday's release included nearly 470,000 more files recovered in the raid. Most of the newly disclosed material is in Arabic, untranslated, and uncurated. It includes Bin Laden's untranslated 228-page private journal, and other documents that officials say support a U.S. intelligence estimate produced just after the raid that bin Laden continued to act as an operational commander of Al Qaeda even in the months just before his death.

According to the CIA, "the materials provide insights into the origins of fissures that exist today between Al Qaeda and ISIS; as well as strategic, doctrinal and religious disagreements within Al Qaeda and its allies; and hardships that Al Qaeda faced at the time of Bin Laden's death."

The trove also provides new insight into the often adversarial relationship between al Qaeda and Iran — the Sunni Muslim terror group and the Shiite republic — in the form of a 19-page report described by the Long War Journal as "a senior jihadist's assessment of the group's relationship with Iran."

Two U.S. intelligence officials characterized the document to NBC News as "evidence of Iran's support of al Qaeda's war with the United States."

According to the officials, the document traces the history of the relationship starting with the escape of a group of Al Qaeda officials and their families from Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion in September 2001. Bin Laden dispatched the group of Al Qaeda leaders, known as the Al Qaeda Management Council, to Iran.

At various points in the relationship, the document reveals, Iran offered Al Qaeda help, in the form of "money, arms" and "training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in exchange for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf."

But at other points in the relationship, according to the document, there were angry rifts, leading to forced detention of key Al Qaeda officials.

The files confirm previous reports that Bin Laden wrote Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei demanding the release of family members held in Iranian custody. Bin Laden himself considered plans to counter Iran's influence throughout the Middle East, which he viewed as pernicious, according to the Long War Journal, an account confirmed by the U.S. officials.

Previous reports indicated that at one point Bin Laden ordered the kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat to trade for one of Al Qaeda's top commanders, which the document confirms.

Iran has vigorously denied that it cooperated with Al Qaeda, stating that it kept the members of the Management Council in jails, not under house arrest.

Among the materials are approximately 79,000 audio and image files and more than 10,000 video files, which include Al Qaeda "home videos," draft videos or statements by Bin Laden, and jihadist propaganda.

The videos include footage of Bin Laden's son Hamza's wedding, which reportedly took place in Iran. Hamza, now in his 20's, is increasingly seen as his father's successor as head of Al Qaeda.



Riaz Haq said...

The Danger of Trump’s Pakistan Approach
Taking a tougher line on Islamabad without a clear strategy is a losing proposition.

https://thediplomat.com/2017/11/the-danger-of-trumps-pakistan-approach/

As the dust settles, there should be a period of reflection, and there will be. Pakistan has to make up its mind whether it wants to contribute to Afghanistan stability or instability. Though Pakistan benefits and suffers from what happens in Afghanistan, Pakistan has failed to cash in on its support for the Taliban. And now it may be too late, as Pakistan is left with few good options except to drop them. The problem is that Washington is not making it any easier for Pakistan to do so.

Pakistan’s cooperation will depend on its assessment of what is the end game from the American perspective. But what is the overall American objective and strategy? There is no clarity. Without any knowledge of that and of what is in there for Islamabad, Pakistan will understandably be reluctant to cooperate.

Pakistan also wants coordinated action against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Jamaatul Ahrar, and the Balochistan Liberation Army, which operate from safe havens in Afghanistan. But both Kabul and Washington have been unresponsive. And so far, Washington has pushed all the wrong buttons like sanctioning India’s hegemonic ambitions in the region and attacking the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which may prompt Pakistan to hedge.

To add to Pakistan’s quandary, China may be facing a similar dilemma. Though it still remains invested in Afghanistan’s stability, if the United States remains silent about its end game in Afghanistan and has outlined a strategy of encirclement of China as suggested by Tillerson’s CSIS speech, then China too may have to hedge. Both General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis have recently been speaking in Congressional hearings against the “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) initiative and its flagship project, CPEC. The theme is that China, through its regional partnerships, is trying to limit U.S. power projection and weaken Washington’s position in the Indo-Pacific.

Washington is trying to address a mélange of geopolitical, regional, and national security challenges, along with the failing Afghanistan war, without an overarching strategy or grand design. It may thus end up as a zero-sum exercise. One objective or another is going to give or lose out in pursuit of one particular interest. Washington may think that threatening CPEC to weaken Pakistan ‘s lifeline to undermine its leverage, and to weaken China’s alternatives to deal with the projection of American power in the Indian Ocean, might be a smart move but it is more likely to backfire. It is also worth noting that it will likely draw China and Pakistan even closer.

If Pakistan is lost to Washington or isolated, the United States loses too. The safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets remains important to the United States, as does non-proliferation. In case of strained relationship with Pakistan, the United States loses communication with Pakistan on the nuclear issue. It also loses influence on Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to deal with extremism and militant outfits. Not to mention Washington loses air and ground lines of communication, and intelligence sharing on dealing with transnational terror groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State. Finally, there will be no peace in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s help.

Riaz Haq said...

#Saudi Money Fuels the #Tech Industry in #SiliconValley. #Twitter #Facebook #Uber #WeWork The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/06/technology/unsavory-sources-money-fueling-tech.html

We need to talk about the tsunami of questionable money crashing into the tech industry.

We should talk about it because that money is suddenly in the news, inconveniently out in the open in an industry that has preferred to keep its connection to petromonarchs and other strongmen on the down low.

The news started surfacing over the weekend, when Saudi Arabia arrested a passel of princes, including Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire tech investor who has large holdings in Apple, Twitter and Lyft. The arrests, part of what the Saudis called a corruption crackdown, opened up a chasm under the tech industry’s justification for taking money from the religious monarchy.


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Unsurprisingly, this is not a topic many people want to talk about. SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate that runs the $100 billion Vision Fund, which is shelling out eye-popping investments in tech companies, declined to comment for this column. Nearly half of the Vision Fund, about $45 billion, comes from the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

WeWork and Slack, two prominent start-ups that have received recent investments from the Vision Fund, also declined to comment. So did Uber, which garnered a $3.5 billion investment from the Public Investment Fund in 2016, and which is in talks to receive a big investment from the SoftBank fund. The Public Investment Fund also did not return a request for comment.

Twitter, which got a $300 million investment from Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Company in 2011 — around the same time that it was talking up its role in the Arab Spring — declined to comment on his arrest. Lyft, which received $105 million from Prince Alwaleed in 2015, also declined to comment.

Privately, several founders, investors and others at tech companies who have taken money from the Saudi government or prominent members of the royal family did offer insight into their thinking. Prince Alwaleed, some pointed out, was not aligned with the Saudi government — his arrest by the government underscores this — and he has advocated for some progressive reforms, including giving women the right to drive, a restriction that the kingdom says will be lifted next year.

The founders and investors also brought up the Saudi government’s supposed push for modernization. The Saudis have outlined a long-term plan, Vision 2030, that calls for a reduction in the state’s dependence on oil and a gradual loosening on economic and social restrictions, including a call for greater numbers of women to enter the work force. The gauzy vision allows tech companies to claim to be part of the solution in Saudi Arabia rather than part the problem: Sure, they are taking money from one of the world’s least transparent and most undemocratic regimes, but it’s the part of the government that wants to do better.

Another mitigating factor, for some, is the sometimes indirect nature of the Saudi investments. When the SoftBank Vision Fund invests tens of millions or billions into a tech company, it’s true that half of that money is coming from Saudi Arabia. But it’s SoftBank that has control over the course of the investment and communicates with founders. The passive nature of the Saudi investment in SoftBank’s fund thus allows founders to sleep better at night.

On the other hand, it also has a tendency to sweep the Saudi money under the rug. When SoftBank invests in a company, the Saudi connection is not always made clear to employees and customers. You get to enjoy the convenience of your WeWork without having to confront its place in the Saudi government’s portfolio.