Saturday, April 8, 2017

US Missile Strikes in Syria; US Mediation in India-Pakistan Dispute; Bannon’s Future

Did Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad really use chemical weapons against his own people? Are US Missile Strikes on Syrian Shayrat airbase justified? Why did Russian President Vladimir Putin stand by and watch his Syrian ally punished by US missile strikes? What is President Trump’s strategy in Syria beyond these limited strikes? How will the Trump Administration deal with ISIS in Syria? How will Russia and Iran react to further US involvement against their ally Assad?

What did United States’ UN Ambassador Nikki Haley say about the Trump administration mediating between India and Pakistan? Why did India immediately reject it? Where will this initiative go from here? How will Lisa Curtis’s appointment as South Asia director of US National Security Council impact President Trump’s policy in South Asia given that she co-wrote a paper with Husain Haqqani that is highly critical of Pakistan? Would President Trump's Pakistan policy be better or worse or the same as President Obama's?

Why has President Trump’s close aide Steve Bannon been bumped from the US National Security Council headed by General HR McMaster? Is there any truth in rumors of Bannon’s clash with President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner? Is Bannon about to be completely eased out of the White House? How will such an exit change the White House?

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

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Trump Administration's Policy Toward Muslims, India and Pakistan

Is Husain Haqqani Advising Trump?

Obama's Parting Shot Against Pakistan

Does the US Share Responsibility For the Rise of ISIS?

Impact of Trump Appointment on US Domestic and Foreign Policy

Iran-Saudi Conflict

Talk4Pak Youtube Channel


Anonymous said...

World is not at all bothered about indo pak dispute for the foreseeable future.

Anonymous said...

Whoever commented the above is the truth. The international community's priority number one is Syria war, priority number no. 2 is robably east Ukraine and Yemen war, priority number 3 is tackling ISIS Al Qaeda terrorism....Israeli Palestinian issue, Somalia, Nigeria boko haram, North Korea vs South Korea Japan tensions, south china island disputes.
Kashmir issue does make a headline once in a while. It's pretty clear no one really cares about resolving this dispute. India and Pakistan will have to be contend with the territory they have. I think each should respect the LOC and develop the areas under their respective controls.

Riaz Haq said...

Farooq Abdullah: Wake up #India, talk to #Pakistan or lose #Kashmir … via @indiatoday

National Conference chief and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Dr Farooq Abdullah today said the violence and loss of lives during the Srinagar bypoll "are a tragedy and a failure of the government of the day."

National Conference chief and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Dr Farooq Abdullah, who is contesting the state by-elections from Srinagar, said that the violence and loss of lives during the bypolls in the state "are a tragedy and a failure of the government of the day. They could not provide security to the people, and further, it is the present dispensation which the people reject."
"Why am I playing with fire? Is that not true? Are the stonepelters fighting for MP-ship or MLA-ship or some ministerial post? Wake up, before it is too late," said Abdullah, demanding that the youth deserved to be heard.
Here are some excerpts from the explosive interview.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You said - Kashmiri youth are picking up guns for the freedom of Kashmir, and not for becoming legislators. As a senior statesman, shouldn't you be bridging the gap, but almost endorsing azadi and Kashmir is lost to India?
Farooq Abdullah: Sometime ago, a Parliamentary delegation came to Kashmir under the leadership of the home minister. The delegation was told that we will talk to the youth, and all the stakeholders. Have they done so, in a single step, in the last two years? Why do you blame me?"

Q: Because you want votes, you are stirring the pot..?
A: Wake up, wake up. The situation is quite bad, and don't tell me Pakistan is not a party to this problem. Whether you like it or not, you have to talk to Pakistan. If you want to beat the threat of the terrorists, then you better start talking now.
Q: With what end result? All the talking, and yet terrorists are sent across border, and violence continues?
A: Let us start mending our fences, and start controlling present problem. Let's not burn, let's talk to the youth, Hurriyat, other leaders and come to a solution.
Q: How are talks are going to be different this time?
A: You have 8 people dead, and God knows how many injured. How long will you keep on doing this? You think it's all law and order? Or, you think by development you can change the mind of people?"
Q: Your critics will say that this is theatrics. When you are in power you speak differently, and now you seem to be catering to separatist sentiment?
A: You are losing Kashmir. You better wake up, and start thinking on not a military solution, but a political way. And come down from your high horses...I am seeing a very bad situation. The youth is on boil. Which I have not seen before.
The situation remains tense in the Kashmir valley a day after violence and a historic low voter turnout, at 7 per cent, marred bypolls in Srinagar.
The Election Commission has postponed the bypolls in Anantnag Parliamentary constituency to May 25, 2016.
The decision came after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's brother Tasaduq Hussain Mufti, who is contesting a Parliamentary bypoll in Anantnag, appealed to the Election Commission to postpone his election.
On Sunday, 8 civilians were killed and school set on fire in Shopian, in incidences of poll violence in Kashmir.

Riaz Haq said...

Strategic Insights : Is #Pakistan close to a #nuclear deal with the #US?: #India … via @TOIOpinion

Many signs portend yes. In the waning days of the Obama administration, talk grew in Washington, D.C. of the US offering the same nuclear deal to Pakistan as it had offered India. The White House never seemed to categorically deny those rumours.

Pakistan has always held the keys to Kabul, and has played its cards expertly. The seeming about-face against the Taliban post 9-11; the double game played with the Americans, one foot in their camp, the other planted firmly in the Afghani Talibani; all of this has led to the Taliban coming to the cusp of capturing Kabul, with the Yanks receiving the same hiding that the Russkies and the Pommies haven’t as yet forgotten.


But how can one secure against a security guard who turns turtle. The Yanks must have their own folks in the Strategic Plains Division and other centralized Pakistani nuclear establishments. After all, a hundred million can pay for a lot of outsized American salaries. But the Pakistanis have pulled a fast one with the deployment of their tactical nukes, the little Nasrs.
No Yank can control their use, for the operational control lies with about 300 Pakistani military field commanders. One goes rogue and a dirty bomb could go off in Indianapolis in short order. No wonder Nikki Haley, a key member of Trump’s foreign policy team, is now crying herself hoarse to mediate between Pakistan and India. Her express aim: Islamabad, you ditch your tacticals, India you yours. Washington’s interest must always be protected.
Pakistan is happy with the mediation. But not happy enough. It has left the Americans out of talks with the Afghan Taliban, cozying up instead to the Chinese and the Russkies. What is the Russian interest in Kabul? They are not even contiguous with Afghanistan any more. And the Chinese? Well, wherever the Pakistanis are, can the Chinese be far behind. And not even a leaf can fall anywhere in Asia now without the assent of the Chinese.
America is alarmed. Ever the brinkman, Pakistan is up to its old tricks. One overriding purpose drives it: Treat us as India’s equal. Memo from Islamabad to Washington: We know you are screwed in Afghanistan. We will get you out safely as long as we get the same nuclear deal as India has got.
The Yanks seem to have got the message. Pakistani nuclear delegations visit Washington regularly now. One is there right now meeting with American experts. Nikki Haley was perhaps just the portend of things to come. Any day, you might have an announcement of a nuclear deal for Pakistan.
Poor India. What has it been doing all this while. It has alienated the Russkies so much that they are now selling arms to Islamabad for the first time ever. Has India’s foreign policy establishment been sleeping at the wheel? Or will they be able to pull a rabbit out of their hat? The plot thickens.

Riaz Haq said...

#Trump admin requests #US #Congress for $743 million in #aid to #Pakistan for FY2017, up from $662 million last year

PRESIDENT DONALD Trump’s administration has put in place a modest enhancement of military and civilian aid to Pakistan — the first reversal of a uninterrupted five-year decline — for the 2017 financial year, requisitioning $743 million, against a post 9/11 low of $662 million in 2016, according to figures released by the authoritative Congressional Research Service on Friday.
Aid to the civilian sector makes up the larger part of the increase, rising from $352 million last year to $423. Of that $400 million is made up of the Economic Support Fund, a programme the State Department says is meant to encourage countries facing terrorism to join “the community of well-governed states that act responsibly in the international system”.
However, military assistance has also increased marginally, from $310 million to $320 million. The figures do not include Coalition Support Funds, or CSF-reimbursements made for logistical and operational support of US troops in theatres like Afghanistan.
In 2017, the National Defence Authorisation Act allows the US to pay Pakistan up to $1.1 billion in CSF, of which $400 million is subject to the condition that it has taken action against the Taliban-linked network of Sirajuddin Haqqani. In 2015, the US paid $550 million in CSF to Pakistan.
Aid to Pakistan declined sharply since 2011, reflecting a downturn in relations, when the country received $2.463 billion in aid. In 2012, the total fell to $1.916 billion, and further to $1.195 billion in 2013, before dipping to $979 million in 2014.

Riaz Haq said...

#Trump Administration Proposes to Cut #CSF for #Pakistan by $100 Million to $800 Million for FY18. … via @ndtv

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has proposed to give Pakistan US $800 million as reimbursement for its military and logistical support in counter-terrorism operations in the next fiscal, a defence department official has said.

The administration has proposed the amount - a cut of US $100 million compared to the previous time - in its annual budget proposals under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), a Pentagon programme to reimburse US allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations.

Pakistan is one of the largest recipient under the fund and has received US $14 billion since 2002. But for the past two years, the US Congress has imposed conditions on disbursal of money under the fund.

"The FY 2018 budget proposal seeks US $800 million in CSF for Pakistan. The CSF authority is not security assistance, but reimbursements to key cooperating nations for logistical, military, and other support provided to US combat operations," Adam Stump, Defence Department spokesman for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia told news agency PTI yesterday.

For 2016 fiscal year, Pakistan was authorised to receive up to US $900 million under CSF.

"The deputy secretary of defence signed the authorisation to disburse US $550 million in fiscal year 2016 coalition support fund to Pakistan for logistical, military, and other support provided to the US operations in Afghanistan for the period of January-June 2015," Mr Stump said.

"The Department recognises the significant sacrifices the Pakistan military has made in the fight against terrorism, and appreciates Pakistan's continued support for transit of materiel to coalition forces in Afghanistan," he said in response to a question

"Disbursement of the remaining US $350 million requires the Secretary of Defence to certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani Network. The Secretary has not yet made a decision on certification," Mr Stump said.

For the first time in 2016, then Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter had declined to certify that Pakistan met the certification requirement, resulting in the loss of US $300 million fund for it. This amount was reprogrammed by the Pentagon for Department of Defence's Overseas Contingency Operations Funding, a second defence department official said.

In its latest budget, the Department of Defence has attached no conditions for disbursement of CSF to Pakistan. However, it was only the US Congress which imposes such strict conditions on giving CSF money to Pakistan.

Justifying the need to give such a huge amount of money to Pakistan, the Pentagon said Pakistan has served as a key ally in operation 'Enduring Freedom' since 2001 and will continue to play a key role in maintaining stability in the region.

"Pakistan's security forces regularly engage enemy forces, arrest and kill Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, and provide significant support to US forces operating in Afghanistan. Pakistan continues to meet the enemy insurgency and has made enormous sacrifices in support of these operations," it said.

"The expenses Pakistan incurs to conduct operations against al-Qaeda and Taliban forces include providing logistical support for its forces, manning observation posts along the Afghanistan border, and conducting maritime interdiction operations and combat air patrol," the Pentagon said.

Riaz Haq said...

#Trump disbands #Afghanistan-#Pakistan unit in #StateDepartment.Eliminates #AfPak special rep position via @politico

The Trump administration on Friday moved to eliminate the State Department unit responsible for dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan — transferring its duties to a regional bureau whose leadership ranks have been decimated, two sources told POLITICO.

The development came with less than a day’s notice. It deeply rattled U.S. officials who say the shift leaves unclear who is responsible for handling diplomacy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan at a time when the Trump administration is considering ramping up military efforts in that region.

The phase-out of the office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) was put in motion under the Obama administration. But diplomats are concerned that the Trump administration has yet to name people to lead the South and Central Asia Bureau, leaving a leadership vacuum. That State Department bureau has seen unusually high levels of senior staff departures since Trump's inauguration in January.

“The Afghanistan and Pakistan function is being dissolved and transferred into a structure that has been dissolved itself,” a U.S. diplomat familiar with the issue told POLITICO. “We’ve long planned for SRAP to go away, but the intention was for the policy to be transferred responsibly. This happened on less than 24 hours notice.”

The State Department press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Riaz Haq said...

#Bannon said he learned to fear #Muslims when he visited #Karachi. Except he was probably in #HongKong. by @maassp IF YOU ASK Steve Bannon how he got the idea that Muslims in the Middle East are a civilizational threat to America, he will say that his eyes were first opened when he served on a Navy destroyer in the Arabian Sea. At least that’s what he told the journalist Joshua Green, whose new book about President Donald Trump’s senior counselor is a best-seller.

“It was not hard to see, as a junior officer, sitting there, that [the threat] was just going to be huge,” Bannon said. He went on:
We’d pull into a place like Karachi, Pakistan – this is 1979, and I’ll never forget it – the British guys came on board, because they still ran the port. The city had 10 million people at the time. We’d get out there, and 8 million of them had to be below the age of fifteen. It was an eye-opener. We’d been other places like the Philippines where there was mass poverty. But it was nothing like the Middle East. It was just a complete eye-opener. It was the other end of the earth.

That’s Bannon’s version. There are a few problems with it, however.

The port of Karachi was not run by the British in 1979. Karachi, which is the commercial hub of Pakistan, had a population that was well short of 10 million (it was about half that) and is not usually considered part of the Middle East. But the biggest problem is that the destroyer Bannon served on, the USS Paul F. Foster, never visited Karachi while Bannon was aboard.

Six sailors who served on the Foster with Bannon told The Intercept that the vessel did not stop at Karachi during its 1979-1980 deployment. The recollections of these enlisted men and officers are supported by the ship’s deck logs, which show no stop on the way to the Arabian Sea and are available to the public at the National Archives. And a map of the Foster’s port calls that was published in its “cruisebook” shows stops in Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Christmas Island, Hong Kong, and Singapore — but not Karachi.
It turns out that Bannon, who has drawn a large amount of criticism for his exclusionary stances on race, religion, and immigration, has also inaccurately described his military service, simultaneously creating an erroneous narrative of how he came to an incendiary anti-Muslim worldview that helps shape White House policy.

It’s not clear whether Bannon’s account of visiting Karachi is an intentional fabrication or a false memory that reflects his subconscious fears, or something else entirely. Whatever the reason, it raises a lot of questions. Bannon did not respond to several inquiries from The Intercept. A close friend of Bannon’s who is in regular contact with him, and spoke on the condition of not being named, said Bannon had not read Green’s book and that the quotes attributed to him had not been checked with him. Green, the author, told The Intercept that the interview with Bannon occurred in 2015 and was recorded and transcribed.

The news of Bannon’s problematic narrative comes at a delicate time for the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, which under his leadership produced incessant streams of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim stories. Bannon’s Navy service has always been deeply relevant to his work at the White House because it has been used as a reason for giving him influence on military affairs that his critics believe he does not merit. Bannon reportedly has a tense relationship with the retired generals who occupy key positions in the Trump administration – Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and particularly National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that McMaster has been waging a campaign to cleanse the National Security Council of Bannon’s allies, and that the two men have argued about Afghanistan policy.