|Courtesy Times of India|
What does Michael Wolff say about Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Trump family in his book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House"? Are Jared Kushner and Donald Trump involved in "money laundering"? Was Don Jr's Tump Tower meeting with Russians "treasonous"? Is Ivanka Trump "dumb as a brick"? Will this lead to Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicting the Trump family on multiple charges relating to obstruction of justice and money laundering? Will President Trump be named as un-indicted co-conspirator in these indictments?
|Chinese vs American Arms to Pakistan. Source: WSJ|
What will happen in 2018? Will President Trump be named as an un-indicted co-conspirator by Robert Mueller in his obstruction of justice indictments of his close aides? Will Trump become even more erratic? Will Democrats take both houses of US legislature in 2018 elections? Will Trump be impeached? Will there be elections and new government in Pakistan? Who will be the winners and losers? Will there be a hung parliament and coalition government? Will India-Pakistan relations improve?
Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)
Gen Petraeus Debunks Trump's Charge of "Lies and Deceit" Against Pakistan
Sec Robert Gates on Pakistan's "lies and deceit"
Is Trump Getting Advice on Pakistan Policy From Husain Haqqani?
Pakistan's Trump Card in Dealing With Trump
Trump's Russia Probe
Talk4Pak Youtube Channel
Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel
CPEC With Virtues Blessed Pakistan With Bountiful Harvest In 2017 [ANALYSIS]
Discussing the energy sector under CPEC, there were 16 projects prioritized with the total capacity of 10,400MW as well as 8 actively promoted projects. Year 2017 has witnessed the operationalization of 2x660MW Sahiwal Coal-Fired Power Plant, 50MW Dawood Wind Farm and 50MW Sachal Wind Farm. Near to completion are the 900MW Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Bahawalpur (90% work has been done) and 100MW Jhimpir Wind Farm. 2x660MW Port Qasim Coal-fired Power Plant, 4x330MW Engro Thar Coal-fired Power Plant and Surfice Mine in Block II of Thar Coal Field, 720MW Karot Hydro-Power Project, and 873MW Suki Kinari Hydropower Project are under construction.
Year 2017 has witnessed the seventy percent completion of the two infrastructure projects; KKH PhaseII(Havelian- Thakot Section),120 km, Karachi-Lahore Motorway (Sukkur-Multan Section),392 km. Rest of the infrastructure projects are working on their pace while the spine of the CPEC Railway Line ML-1’s complete feasibility report has been compiled up for the further progress. An efficient and fast transportation network is vital importance for the economic development.
In the area of industrial cooperation under CPEC, there are six projects under construction and year 2018 will be witnessing their destiny. China has advantages in experience, technology, financing and industrial capacity, while Pakistan enjoys favorable conditions in resources, labor forces and market. By carrying out industrial cooperation, both sides will achieve mutual complementarity and win-win results.
Year 2017 marked a landmark achievement for Pakistan as Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that CPEC Long Term Plan would be public on 18th of December, 2017 which would further add the prospects for more inclusive research of this mega project. Simultaneously, there are bright prospects to jack up the developments in various sectors which include agriculture, information technology. This demonstrates the success of this meeting and the willingness of China to diversify its cooperation under the CPEC project. In this backdrop, the harmony between the provincial and federal governments is required and they should work enthusiastically for the inclusion of more projects under CPEC and to complete the ongoing projects. It can be hoped that the end result would be productive and the project will be able to proceed. The continuity of the meetings of Joint Cooperation Committee since 2013 to Nov 2017 shows the evaluation and progress of work on the ongoing projects under CPEC. 7th JCC has further deepened mutual cooperation between the two countries under the framework of CPEC and would pave a clear way for Pakistan to enter the phase of Industrial Cooperation.
CPEC has helped Pakistan to mitigate the chronic energy crises which have negative impacts on the economic growth of Pakistan. This energy shortage has hampered the industrial production and the businesses were closed down because of the interrupted supply of energy. CPEC project has played a significant role in this regard whereas WAPDA and KESC failed to resolve this problem of energy shortage. CPEC energy projects based on the wind, solar, coal and hydro power would create the generation of 16,400 MW.
Will #Pakistan use “weapons of mass migration” in asymmetrical response to #Trump’s moves to insult, intimidate and squeeze Pakistan? #Afghan #Taliban #Terror
Pakistan’s announcement that it will seek the expulsion of over 1,5 million Afghan refugees in the next 30 days is being tacitly justified by Trump’s tweet and channels his zero-tolerance stance towards immigration from “terrorist”-prone states, but it also represents the employment of reverse-“Weapons of Mass Migration” in pushing Kabul closer towards the edge of collapse and consequently filling the Taliban’s rank of supporters.
Trump is going to soon regret what he tweeted about Pakistan on New Year’s Day in accusing it of “giving safe haven to terrorists”, since Islamabad is poised to hit Washington with an asymmetrical counterpunch that it surely won’t forget.
The Pakistani government just announced that over 1,5 million Afghan refugees must leave the country within the next 30 days, a plan that it’s been working on for a while but which just received a fresh impetus and internationally-acceptable justification with Trump’s tweet.
Had it not been for the American President’s zero-tolerance towards immigration from what his administration labels as “terrorist”-prone countries, which crucially includes Afghanistan for substantial and not political reasons (as the latter relates to Iran’s inclusion and Saudi Arabia’s exclusion), then Pakistan would have risked drawing heavy pressure from the State Department on exaggerated claims that it’s “violating the human rights” of the refugees.
Trump, however, said that Pakistan was “giving safe haven to terrorists”, and since the US formally regards Afghan refugees as being too much of a potential security hazard to allow into its own country, it’s forced to accept Pakistan’s expulsion of 1,5 million of them on the implicit basis that they also constitute a serious terrorist threat to the state such as the one that the President just tweeted about.
This isn’t at all what Trump meant when he issued his tweet, nor the reaction that he was expecting, but by cleverly exploiting the President’s own policies at home and the suggestion he was making towards Pakistan abroad, Islamabad found a creative way to asymmetrically strike back at Washington.
Not only could Pakistan soon rid itself of actual terrorist sleeper cells and societal malcontents who have long overstayed their welcome in the neighboring country, it will also be catalyzing a series of cascading crises for Kabul through the employment of what can be described as reverse-“Weapons of Mass Migration”.
To briefly explain, Ivy League researcher Kelly M. Greenhill introduced the concept of “Weapons of Mass Migration” in 2010 to describe the ways through which large-scale population movements — whether “naturally occurring”, engineered, or exploited — impact on their origin, transit, and destination societies, theorizing that this phenomenon can have a strategic use in some instances.
Of relevance, the influx of millions of Afghan “Weapons of Mass Migration” into Pakistan since 1979 had the effect of destabilizing the host country’s border communities and eventually contributing to the spree of terrorist attacks that have since claimed over 60,000 lives in the past 15 years, but now the large-scale and rapid return of these “weapons” to their country of origin will also inevitably destabilize Afghanistan.
Wolff Book: How Trump ‘Lost It’ In Afghanistan, While India, Pakistan Don’t Figure At All
Fire and Fury makes no mention of the two largest countries in South Asia but has a vivid account of how the US president “lost it” when confronted with a plan to send more troops to Afghanistan.
The reason for Bannon’s exultation was Trump exploding in anger and threatening to fire all US generals after they couldn’t give him any alternative to the troop increase proposal.
The generals were punting and waffling and desperately trying to save face – they were, according to Bannon, talking pure “gobbledygook” in the situation room. “Trump was standing up to them,” said a happy Bannon. “Hammering them. He left a bowel movement in the middle of their Afghan plans. Again and again, he came back to the same point: we’re stuck and losing and nobody here has a plan to do much better than that.”
Before this meeting, the US military had expected to give a green signal to their proposal after weeks of negotiation – and therefore, the apparent meltdown came out of the blue.
According to Wolff, Trump “angrily railed” for two hours “against the mess he had been handed in Afghanistan”.
He threatened to fire almost every general in the chain of command. He couldn’t fathom, he said, how it had taken so many months of study to come up with this nothing-much-different plan. He disparaged the advice that came from generals and praised the advice from enlisted men.
Deputy national security advisor Dina Powell suggested that the “moderate, best-case, easiest-to-sell course” was to send around “send four, five, six, or (tops) seven thousand troops”.
Powell even helped design a PowerPoint deck that McMaster began using with the president: pictures of Kabul in the 1970s when it still looked something like a modern city. It could be like this again, the president was told, if we are resolute.
Bannon had also master-minded a mediacampaignagainst McMaster, which had led to a counter campaign by Kushner and Powell. According to Vox, between July 21 and Aug 22, Breitbart News carried 60 mostly negative articles on McMaster.
It was the establishment and never-Trumpers against the America-first Trumpkins. In many respects, Bannon was outgunned and outnumbered, yet he still thought he had it nailed. And when he won, not only would another grievously drafted chapter in the war in Afghanistan be avoided, but ‘Jarvanka’, and Powell, their factotum, would be further consigned to irrelevance and powerlessness.
The National Security Council proposed three options – withdrawal, outsourcing to private contractors and the CIA as suggested byBlackwater founder Erik Prince, and a limited surge.
Withdrawal was apparently taken off the story as it “still left Donald Trump with having lost a war, an insupportable position for the president”.
The second option, which was propped up by Bannon, was opposed by the CIA, wrote Wolff.
The agency had spent 16 years successfully avoiding Afghanistan, and everyone knew that careers were not advanced in Afghanistan, they died in Afghanistan. So please keep us out of it.
This left the only the third option, which was the reason for the confidence among the military brass that Trump would sign off on it.
But on July 19, at a meeting of the national security team in the situation room at the White House, Trump “lost it”.
Retelling a known story?
It took another month to make Trump to agree on the troop increase, which was unveiled as the Afghanistan and South Asia strategy on August 21 – with a side of tough love for Pakistan. Three days earlier, Bannon had officially left the White House. Around 3800 US troops were sent to Afghanistan, with the total number exceeding 15,000.
The July 19 meeting – and the in-fighting in the White House over the troop surge – gives credence to some of the complaints from mainstream US reporters that much of the information in Wolff’s book was already in the public domain.
#China Opposed to #US 'finger-pointing' at #Pakistan on #terrorism-related issues. #Trump #Afghanistan #Taliban http://toi.in/K_C8Jb/a24gk via @TOIWorld
China on Monday said it is opposed to the US "finger-pointing" at Pakistan+ and linking it with terrorism, insisting that the responsibility of cracking down on terror outfits cannot be placed on a particular country.
China's support for its all-weather ally came as the US stepped up its efforts to pressure Pakistan+ to eliminate terror safe havens on its soil.
The US last week suspended approximately $2 billion in security assistance to Pakistan for its failure to take decisive action against terror groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani Network.
"China has always opposed linking terrorism with any certain country and we don't agree to place the responsibility of anti terrorism on a certain country," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing.
He was responding to a question on a White House official's remarks that China could play helpful role in convincing Pakistan+ that it was in its national interest to crackdown on terror safe havens.
"We have stressed many times that Pakistan has made important sacrifices and contributions to the global anti terrorism cause," Lu said.
"Countries should strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation on the basis of mutual respect instead of finger-pointing at each other. This is not conducive to the global terrorism efforts," he said.
China has been vocal in extending support to Pakistan since US President Donald Trump increased rhetoric against Islamabad providing safe havens for terrorists.
Trump in a New Year's Day tweet accused the country of giving nothing to the US but "lies and deceit" and providing "safe haven" to terrorists in return for $33 billion aid over the last 15 years.
Chinese media has been speculating that Trump's efforts to step up pressure on Pakistan may move it closer to Beijing as China is involved in a number of projects in the country under the $50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The Chinese official media is highlighting reports that Pakistan may allow China to build a a military base at Jiwani located close to Iran's Chabahar port, which is being jointly developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan. Jiwani is also close to the strategic Gwadar port in Balochistan which is being developed by China.
While defending Pakistan, Lu said China at the same time backed international counter terrorism efforts.
"First and foremost, I would like to say that terrorism is the common enemy of the international community. Cracking down of terrorism calls for the joint efforts from the international community," he said.
"Actually, China is defending countries that have been making anti-terrorism efforts in a just and fair way. China also welcomes all the global joint efforts in terms of counter terrorism on the basis of mutual trust and mutual respect," he said.
Here's an excerpt of Pakistan-hating American analyst Christine Fair's piece in the Atlantic: "Pakistan Will Try to Make Trump Pay":
The country has banked on being treated as too dangerous to fail. But this time could be different.
Pakistan likely suspects it has the upper hand, and for good reason: It has cultivated a global fear that it is too dangerous to fail. This is why many Americans have been afraid to break ties with Pakistan and have never encouraged the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral organizations to cut off the country and let Pakistan wallow in its own mess. Pakistan believes it has effectively bribed the international community with the specter that any instability could result in terrorists getting their hands on Pakistani nuclear technology, fissile materials, or a weapon. In fact, Pakistan has stoked these fears by having the world’s fastest-growing nuclear program, including of battlefield nuclear weapons. It is conceivable that Pakistan could use funds from a future IMF bailout to service its burgeoning Chinese debt.
"Without Pakistani cooperation, our army in Afghanistan risks becoming a beached whale." -Former US ambassador to #Pakistan Richard Olson on the potential costs of Trump's tougher policy.
How Not to Engage With Pakistan
By RICHARD G. OLSONJAN. 9, 2018
Pakistan has greater leverage over us than many imagine.
The keys to understanding Pakistan’s policy and the limitations of American options lie in geography and history. Pakistan essentially amounts to a relatively indefensible sliver astride the Indus River, with flat plains in the east and mountain redoubts populated by hostile tribes in the west. This fragile geography would not matter if not for Pakistan’s long history of enmity toward its far larger neighbor, India.
Since its founding in 1947, Pakistan has defined itself as a national security state in opposition to the Indian behemoth to its east. Pakistanis have long dreaded the prospect of Indian tanks from the adjoining plains of Indian Punjab rolling unimpeded into Lahore and beyond. We may not agree with how Pakistan assesses the threat from India, but in my experience, almost all Pakistanis perceive India as an existential threat.
Because of its real and perceived geographic precariousness, Pakistan has naturally gravitated toward asymmetric military solutions — specifically, the use of proxies. The Pakistani Army and, especially, its spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, have clandestinely supported all manner of anti-India and anti-Afghan groups.
During the 1980s, the United States found it convenient to support some of these proxies against the Soviets in Afghanistan. That policy ended in 1989 as the Soviet war in Afghanistan wound down. Under the 1990 Pressler Amendment, we punished Pakistan for development of nuclear weapons by cutting off security assistance.
But Pakistan, having these groups on its territory and a large Pashtun population of its own, never had an easy option of breaking with Afghan militants. And it has continued to allow the Taliban, including the Haqqani network — a group the United States supported during the Reagan era — to operate from its territory and at critical moments has provided quiet support.
The geography that defines Pakistan’s security worries has also been a bane for the United States. For the past 16 years our military efforts in landlocked Afghanistan have been dependent on transit through and especially overflight of Pakistani territory. Absent an implausible similar arrangement with Iran, other options are not good. Supply through the Central Asian states to the north is theoretically possible, but would rely on Russian good will. Enough said. Without Pakistani cooperation, our army in Afghanistan risks becoming a beached whale.
The American solution has been a robust package of assistance to Pakistan, beginning with the Bush administration in 2001. The United States sought to reimburse Pakistan for the costs of supporting our war in Afghanistan. In the eyes of the Pakistanis, this became payment for their war against domestic terrorism, which has cost Pakistan 50,000 lives and untold billions, and was widely perceived as a bad deal.
The harsh truth is that American leverage over Rawalpindi and Islamabad has been declining. And as United States aid levels have diminished — reflecting bipartisan unhappiness with Pakistani policy — aid from the Chinese has increased. China has invested around $62 billion in Pakistani infrastructure under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an element of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Its magnitude and its transformation of parts of Pakistan dwarf anything the United States has ever undertaken.
...the path of the tweet and highly public aid cuts is not a method that will engender success. The United States can address Afghanistan only with a political initiative.
THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE > OPINION
By M Ziauddin Published: January 13, 2018
Without disagreeing with the main argument by President Trump for suspending security assistance to Pakistan, The New York Times editorial on January 6th had come up with a sane suggestion that the president “…marshal other diplomatic tools, to see if more constructive cooperation with Pakistan is possible.” Stressing the point further, the editorial made an even saner and timely proposal that the president “harness his new friendship with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to shut down Haqqani and other Taliban fund-raising efforts in the Persian Gulf.”
The argument that the bulk of funding that the Haqqanis and other Taliban factions have been receiving all these years is coming from Saudi Arabia and the UAE has never been in doubt. The regional currency market operators have been processing these transactions like normal business for ages without batting an eye.
During Pakistan’s ‘lost decade’ of the 1990s the real rulers of the day had used these funds to finance their military operations as well as their efforts at governance. These flows have continued even after 9/11 but this time these funds have been going straight to the Afghan Taliban, including Haqqanis fleeing to safe sanctuaries in Pakistan in the aftermath of second Afghan war which is now in its 17th year.
So, if the US wants to see a quick end to the Haqqanis and other Taliban factions using Pakistani soil to launch their murderous operations inside Afghanistan, it will have to persuade Saudi Arabia and the UAE to effectively move against these fund raisers in their respective countries and forcibly turn off the clandestine tap that is sustaining the firepower of Haqqanis.
And those in the US who believe Pakistan has effectively bribed the international community with the spectre that any instability could result in terrorists getting their hands on Pakistani nuclear technology, fissile materials, or a weapon are totally off the mark as well. It is not Pakistan but these misguided US political pundits who have cultivated a global fear that Pakistan is too dangerous to fail.
Indeed, even a complete stoppage of the US aid most of which has come in the form of grant or at concessional rates would not hurt the country’s economy seriously because the US has been siphoning back 99 cents from each of its aid dollar in the shape of consultancy fees, shipping charges and transfer pricing resorted to while importing goods and services from the US as per conditions hidden in the fine print of the aid agreements. So, the Chinese loans if not any more beneficial for Pakistan than the US grants, would not be any less beneficial as well.
Of course, Pakistan would be seriously hurt if the multilateral aid agencies under the influence of the US were to stop offering the country a helping hand in times of economic crises which we experience on a regular basis.
Opinion | #US Sens. Cotton and Perdue are outed for lying on #Trump's behalf. Say heard #shithouse, not #shithole. #Immigration #Haiti #Africa #DACA https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/01/16/sens-cotton-and-perdue-are-outed-for-lying-on-trumps-behalf/?utm_term=.dfc70f0db495
There is no honor among anti-immigrant advocates and liars, I suppose. After dutifully lying on behalf of the president regarding his abhorrent language (“shithole countries”), Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) were outed by the White House. The Post reports:
Three White House officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard “shithouse” rather than “shithole,” allowing them to deny the president’s comments on television over the weekend. The two men initially said publicly that they could not recall what the president said.
Not only did these two repeatedly lie, but Cotton also impugned the integrity of Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who told the truth. Asked whether the accusation that Trump spoke the offending words or the sentiment was phony, Cotton lied, “Yes.” He went on to say, “Senator Durbin has misrepresented what happened in White House meetings before, and he was corrected by Obama administration officials by it.”
Honorable men would resign after such a remarkable revelation of their crummy character; neither Cotton nor Perdue will. We still await the appearance of a single staffer of either who would quit in protest.
The incident is telling in many respects, but none more important for Republicans than this: They can lie and enable the president hoping to score brownie points, but this White House won’t repay loyalty in kind. Instead, Republicans will find themselves humiliated.
So to recap: The president described a preference for Norwegian (i.e. white) immigrants over those from “shithole” countries (African nations). He gave the Congressional Black Caucus the back of the hand. (“At one point, Durbin told the president that members of that caucus — an influential House group — would be more likely to agree to a deal if certain countries were included in the proposed protections, according to people familiar with the meeting. Trump was curt and dismissive, saying he was not making immigration policy to cater to the CBC and did not particularly care about that bloc’s demands, according to people briefed on the meeting. ‘You’ve got to be joking,’ one adviser said, describing Trump’s reaction.”) He blew up a possible deal on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, bragged about his actions to friends and then lied to the public about what he said. Two U.S. senators lied as well and then were double-crossed by White House aides.
This raises several questions: Why should these Republicans hold elected office? Why should anyone believe them in the future? And lastly, what is the appropriate response to them?
Given that the two senators lied to the faces of interviewers on the Sunday talk shows, network bookers might consider never having them on air again. They are known prevaricators, so whatever they say on their shows cannot be relied upon as credible. News outlets should respect their viewers by denying airtime for those with so little respect for the truth.
Directorate S author Steve Coll with Terry Gross on NPR Fresh Air
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.
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...
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.
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.
Ex prisoners at #Guantanamo '#Taliban Five' traded for Bowe Bergdahl at center of #Afghanistan peace talks with #American diplomats led by Zalmay Khalilzad @US4AfghanPeace https://fxn.ws/2K3CbHN #FoxNews
When U.S. Army private Bowe Bergdahl was brought back from captivity in 2014 in a controversial exchange involving the release of five Taliban officials from Guantanamo Bay, it was hard to imagine that those five men would one day be rubbing shoulders with U.S. top brass in a bid to bring peace to blood-swathed Afghanistan.
According to multiple sources connected to the protracted talks, having "the five" in key delegation roles has some scratching heads. One U.S. intelligence source called it "a snub to us all," and a clear power play. But in any case, some experts insist that Bergdahl may have inadvertently become the key player in ushering an end to America's longest war.
Michael Ames, the co-author of a new book “American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan” with war veteran Matt Farwell, also told Fox News that these five officials "now form the core of the Taliban delegation meeting with U.S. diplomats about the future in Afghanistan," and he pointed out that it was because of the exchange that the dialogue was sparked and renewed.
“They have a seat at the table at the upscale Doha resort hosting the talks," he said.
According to Ames, U.S. officials were first told about the plans for the five men in secret talks held in 2010 in Germany.
“From the start of those talks, the Taliban made the release of its five officials a necessary step to move forward in negotiations,” he claimed. “The most outspoken of the five is Mullah Khairkhwa, who, at the start of the war, was known by U.S. authorities as a friend of [former Afghanistan president] Hamid Karzai's. Khairkhwa was attempting to join Karzai's U.S.-backed regime when he was detained and sent to Guantanamo.”
Documents obtained by the New York Times also indicated that those five senior Taliban officials who were held for some 13 years at Guantanamo and exchanged for Bergdahl held prominent positions across from U.S diplomats and generals – led by America’s senior envoy Zalmay Khalilzad – in Doha, Qatar last month.
But as far as the talks themselves go, much of it is kept under lock-and-key.
"Nobody really knows what the real talk is," a former Afghan diplomat said. "But everyone is worried that the Taliban morality won't change if the U.S. accepts them into the government."
However, another high-ranking official in Kabul told Fox News that progress in forming an agreement is slow but not stopped. The source noted that the Taliban and its Gitmo Five have agreed not to use the nation as a launchpad or planning base for foreign attacks, but a central point of contention is that they want no U.S. troops to stay and they want the pullout as soon as possible.
"The talks aren't perfect and the Taliban knows that while they keep attacking they have an advantage," the source continued. "But everyone knows these talks are needed. It's the only way forward."
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