Sunday, July 25, 2021

US Afghan Pullout: Any Spillover of Possible Afghan Civil War into Pakistan?

Many fear the return to civil war in Afghanistan after the US pull-out. Are these fears well-founded? If so, who will be the main combatants in such a civil war? The Afghan Taliban? Or notorious warlords of yesteryears like  Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ismael Khan, Abdur Rashid Dostum and progeny of Ahmad Shah Masood? Or terror groups like ISIS, TTP, ETIM, IMU, etc etc.? 

Can the Northern Alliance, made up mainly of Tajiks and Uzbeks, reconstitute itself? Who will back them? Will India back them? Russia, China and Iran are already seriously talking with the Afghan Taliban. 

Can the Afghan Taliban quickly prevail over other groups to stabilize Afghanistan? Will China and Russia help?

How's Pakistan's geo-economic pivot working out? Will Chinese investment in CPEC and Russian involvement in Karachi-Lahore gas pipeline help build Pakistan's geo-economic strategy? Will both of them help Pakistan if India attempts to disrupt these projects with covert attacks via proxies? 

How does the creation of US-led QUAD with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan help Pakistan's geo-strategic pivot? Will it help bring stability to Afghanistan? 

How's US-China technology war unfolding? Is the US succeeding in denying supply chain inputs to the Chinese semiconductor industry? 

Please watch this video for a discussion of the above questions:


Husain F. said...

If no foreign interference is made, then Afghanistan will attain stability and order. Talibans had also established law and order in Afghanistan. However, their harsh laws with misinterpretation of the Islamic teachings were not agreeable.

Mo said...

nope, wont happen

HUK said...

Taliban have understood what interests Russia and China have in Afghanistan!

Riaz Haq said...

#China, #Pakistan to take joint actions to tackle terrorist spillover from #Afghanistan. #CPEC #dasu - Global Times

As Afghan-Taliban peace talks failed to reach breakthrough and security threats remain high, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in China on Saturday. They have both agreed to take joint actions to tackle the spillover effect from the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

China and Pakistan are facing a direct effect from the worsening situation in Afghanistan, and it is one of the important agendas of Qureshi's visit to China to enhance cooperation and deal with the situation, Wang said.

China and Pakistan will pursue the hope for peace in an attempt to prevent a civil war in Afghanistan, and mediate for negotiations between the Afghans, Wang said.

China and Pakistan will jointly combat terrorism, push all major forces in Afghanistan to draw a clear line with terrorism, resolutely crack down on terrorist forces such as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and prevent Afghanistan from falling again into being a hotbed for terrorism, Wang said. He stressed that there should be a push for cooperation between Afghanistan's neighboring countries to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The meeting was arranged amid "very important and sensitive" time, as the Afghan government and the Taliban failed to reach an agreement, and turbulence within the country is yet to be subdued and is spilling over to neighboring regions, Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Sunday.

On July 14, a terrorist attack on a bus in Pakistan claimed the lives of nine Chinese nationals who worked at the Dasu hydropower station, a joint program between the two countries. Although no organization has claimed responsibility yet, Chinese experts believed that terrorist groups such as Pakistani Taliban or the ETIM were behind the attack.

Due to a changing environment in Afghanistan, the ETIM terrorists may have fled to Pakistan where they collaborated with the Pakistani Taliban to launch an attack on China, some experts have said. But they also warned that if the situation in Afghanistan further deteriorates, Pakistan as well as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will be in danger.

Qian said that China, Pakistan and Afghanistan are all important members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), thus the joint action is a way to unite other regional and relevant countries to provide solution for the Afghan situation. "Since a significant solution needs time to put forward, such a small step may serve as a kick starter."

The US' hasty troop withdrawal from Afghanistan neither achieved the anti-terrorism goal, nor brought peace to the country, but created a new security black hole there, Wang said during his meeting with Qureshi.

US President Joe Biden on Friday authorized up to $100 million from an emergency fund to meet "unexpected urgent" refugee needs stemming from the situation in Afghanistan, and allocated $3.3 billion for the security forces of Afghanistan.

In recent days, the US has launched several airstrikes targeting Taliban positions in support of faltering Afghan government forces.

Apparently, the US doesn't want to facilitate stability in the country, as Washington's financial support for the Afghan government will further escalate the country's turmoil, Diao Daming, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times.

Diao also said that if the US is looking for a solution to a stable Middle East, it should unite with Afghanistan's neighboring countries, promote a peaceful reconciliation via dialogue and negotiation.

Anonymous said...

Only lasting peace is partition uzbek and tajik bits merge with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Pashtun part merges with NWFP under full internal autonomy but Pakistan responsible for this entities external security.

This though is a pipe dream..expect another bloody lawless wild east vortex within a year.

And no the Chinese are smart enough to stay far away from this mess.

Riaz Haq said...

#US ‘really messed it up’ in #Afghanistan...they (#Americans) tried to look for a military solution in Afghanistan, when there never was one", says #Pakistan Prime Minister #ImranKhan in an interview with @JudyWoodruff of @NewsHour.

Judy Woodruff:

I hear that message.

At the same time, do you expect that, if the Taliban does succeed in Afghanistan, you're going to have a country next door where women, for one thing, are not allowed to have an education after the age of 8, that you're going to have a country run by a group of terrorists, in effect?

Imran Khan:

But, Judy, what are we supposed to do about it?

I mean, here were the U.S. for two decades in Afghanistan trying to force a military solution. The reason why we are in this position now is because the military solution failed. Now, what choices have we got? The best choice is that somehow we have a political settlement in Afghanistan where it is, as I repeat, an inclusive government.

So, Taliban sit down with the other side and they form an inclusive government. This is the best outcome. There is no other outcome, because the military solution has failed.

Judy Woodruff:

Are you prepared to accept Taliban victory next door? You're saying, in essence, there's nothing you — nothing more Pakistan can do.

Imran Khan:

Absolutely, there's nothing more we can do, except push them as much as we can for a political settlement. That's all.

But what happens in Afghanistan, we can only pray that the people of Afghanistan decide what government they want. And so we hope that that's what will happen in the end; they will form some sort of an inclusive government.

But that's for people of Afghanistan. As far as Pakistan is concerned, we have done what we can.

Judy Woodruff:

Last thing.

I do want to ask you, just take just a moment to ask you about a comment you made about the role of women in your country. You said in an interview last month that women themselves bear a large part of the responsibility for the concerning rise in the number of rape cases in Pakistan.

I want to ask you if you truly believe that. I mean, you're someone, you have lived in the West. You have traveled widely around the world. Do you believe women bear a large part of the responsibility for this?

Imran Khan:

Look, Judy, anyone who commits rape, solely and solely, that person is responsible. So let's be clear about that.

No matter whatever — how much ever a woman is provocative or whatever she wears, the person who commits rape, he is fully responsible. Never is the victim responsible.

My comments were completely taken out of context. They were simply talking about Pakistan society, where we are having a rise, a sharp rise in sex crimes. And sex crime does not include just women. More than rape are child abuse, which is going through the roof.

Riaz Haq said...

#US, #India agree to expand multilateral security partnership to face #China's challenge & #Afghan situation. #Washington wants #Delhi to help isolate China. #Blinken talks of “shared values & democratic principles” #Afghanistan #Pakistan #QUAD

The top diplomats of India and the United States pledged Wednesday to expand their multilateral security partnership, underscoring the deepening of ties between two countries concerned over China’s growing influence in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met in New Delhi and sought to strengthen a regional front against Beijing’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific and their cooperation in Afghanistan.

They also lauded each country’s help in fighting the coronavirus and said their vaccine partnership is an effort to end the pandemic.

“There are few relationships in the world that are more vital than one between the U.S. and India. We are the world’s two leading democracies and our diversity fuels our national strength,” Blinken said at a joint news conference.

Washington has made no secret of the U.S. desire for India’s help in isolating China. The two countries have steadily ramped up their military relationship and signed a string of defense deals.

The U.S. and India are part of the Quad regional alliance that also includes Japan and Australia and focuses on China’s growing economic and military strength. China has called the Quad an attempt to contain its ambitions.

Blinken’s India visit comes just days after the No. 2 U.S. diplomat, Wendy Sherman, was in China.

Blinken said he and Jaishankar also discussed regional security issues including Afghanistan, where the U.S. is expected to complete its military withdrawal in August. He called India’s contribution to the stability of Afghanistan “vital.”

Blinken said there was no “military solution” to the conflict in Afghanistan and that the country would turn into a “pariah state” if the Taliban takes control by force.

“We will continue to work together to sustain the gains of the Afghan people and support regional stability after the withdrawal of coalition forces from the country,” Blinken said.

Jaishankar said the world wishes to see an “independent, sovereign, democratic and stable Afghanistan at peace with itself and with its neighbors,” and cautioned that the country’s “independence and sovereignty will only be ensured if it is free from malign influences.”

New Delhi has often expressed concern that a Taliban takeover could lead to security threats against India.

India has provided Afghan security forces with operational training and military equipment, even though it has had no troops on the ground. It has also provided more than $2 billion in development aid to Afghanistan.

In June, India’s foreign ministry said it was in contact with “various stakeholders” in Afghanistan to discuss its future. More recently, officials from the two countries have increased mutual visits.

“New Delhi is clearly stepping up its game on the Afghanistan front,” said Micheal Kugelman of the Asia Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center. “Its decision to engage more in regional diplomacy on Afghanistan signifies a desire to be more of a player than it has in the past.”

In a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi later Wednesday, Blinken discussed the pandemic, security and defense cooperation, including Quad, and “shared values and democratic principles,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Earlier during his visit, Blinken spoke to civil society leaders and said fundamental freedoms and rule of law are “tenets of democracies” like the U.S. and India.

Ahmed said...

Dear Sir

Thank you for sharing this useful post.

The point is that American authorities have problem with Taliban and they will never want Taliban to come into power in Afghanistan. This is because Taliban want to bring their own version of Islam in the country.

But according to some news sources, if Taliban come into power in Afghanistan, then they will not only benefit Pakistan but it will also benefit CPEC(China Pakistan Economic Corridor).

Ahmed said...

Dear Sir

I have some questions,

In your last post, you mentioned about "US and India partnership in expanding multilateral security".

In this article which you just quoted, it says:
"They also lauded each country’s help in fighting the coronavirus and said their vaccine partnership is an effort to end the pandemic."

My comment:
Sir are you sure that both America and India have worked together in fight against corona virus? If this is true, then why India has suffered so much from corona virus in the last few months? According to Indian and foreign news channels India was badly effected with corona virus, their was huge shortage of oxygens ,ventilators and beds in the hospitals of some of the cities in India.

Riaz Haq said...

China's FM welcomes #Taliban leader Mullah Baradar in Tianjin. #Beijing is investing heavily in #CentralAsia in recent years through its Belt and Road Initiative (#BRI) and offered to extend the #China-#Pakistan Economic Corridor (#CPEC) into #Afghanistan.

China's Foreign Minister met with senior leaders of the Taliban in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin on Wednesday in the latest sign of warming ties between Beijing and the resurgent Islamist group.

During a meeting with Taliban's co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who heads the group's political committee, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the Taliban as an important military and political force in Afghanistan, and said he expected the Taliban to play an important role in the country's "peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process," according to China's Foreign Ministry.
Following the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban has rapidly expanded its presence -- and now controls large swathes of country. The speed at which Afghan security forces have lost control to the Taliban has shocked many, and led to concerns the capital Kabul could be next to fall. All foreign forces are expected to leave Afghanistan by August 31.
Wednesday's meeting, which was also attended by the heads of the Taliban's religious and publicity committees, is the latest move by the Chinese government to strengthen its relationship with the Islamist group.

Beijing has invested heavily in Central Asia in recent years through its Belt and Road trade and infrastructure scheme, and China's Foreign Ministry has previously discussed the possibility of extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) into Afghanistan.
During Wednesday's meeting, Wang referred to Afghanistan as China's largest neighbor, and emphasized the fate of the country should be "in the hands of the Afghan people."
Wang said the withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan under US President Joe Biden marked the "failure of the US' policy towards Afghanistan," as well as an opportunity for the country to stabilize and develop.
"(China) respects Afghanistan's sovereign independence and territorial integrity, (and) always insists on non-interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs," Wang said.
For its part, the Islamist group told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post in early July that it considered China a "welcome friend."
Wang also mentioned the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which he called an "international terrorist organization," and said the Taliban should "completely sever all ties" with the group to promote regional stability.
The Chinese government has regularly accused the ETIM of planning and undertaking terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, accusations it has used to justify its widespread crackdown in the Western region.
Speaking in India on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said both Washington and New Delhi had a "strong interest in a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan" and described the Taliban's military advances as "deeply troubling."
Blinken added that the US and its partners would continue to work together to "sustain the gains of the Afghan people and support regional stability after the withdrawal of coalition forces from the country."

Riaz Haq said...

#US IG Sopko on #Afghanistan talks of #American 'Hubris' & 'Mendacity': "We exaggerated, overexaggerated....Our generals did. Our ambassadors did. All of our officials did, to go to Congress and the American people about 'We're just turning the corner"

Current and future attempts by the United States to use its military might abroad could very well meet the same fate as the country's nearly two-decade-long war in Afghanistan, a U.S. government watchdog warned, citing the repeated failure of top officials to learn from their mistakes.

U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko unleashed the blunt assessment Thursday during a discussion with reporters, accusing wave after wave of top-ranking defense officials and diplomats of lying to themselves, as well as the American public.

"We exaggerated, overexaggerated," Sopko said in response to a question from VOA. "Our generals did. Our ambassadors did. All of our officials did, to go to Congress and the American people about 'We're just turning the corner.'

"We turned the corner so much, we did 360 degrees," he said. "We're like a top."

Sopko, speaking to the Defense Writers Group, said that while there were "multiple reasons" the U.S. failed to create a more effective and cohesive Afghan military, some of it was "this hubris that we can somehow take a country that was desolate in 2001 and turn it into little Norway."

But another key factor, he said, was "mendacity."

Top ranking U.S. military leaders "knew how bad the Afghan military was," Sopko said, adding that they tried to keep such problems hidden.

'We changed the goal posts'

"Every time we had a problem with the Afghan military, we changed the goal posts," he said. "The U.S. military changed the goal posts and made it easier to show success. And then, finally, when they couldn't even do that, they classified the assessment tool."

Sopko cautioned that part of the problem with setting up Afghanistan for success also hinged on Washington's refusal over almost 20 years to plan for long-term success.

"We've highlighted time and again we had unrealistic timelines for all of our work," he said, pointing to a series of reports by his office during the past 12 years.

"Four-star generals, four-star military, four-star ambassadors forced the USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] to try to show success in short timelines, which they themselves knew were never going to work," Sopko said. "These short timelines, which have no basis in reality except the political reality of the appropriations cycle or whatever, whatever is popular at the moment, are dooming us to failure.

"That unfortunately is a problem not just with Afghanistan," he added. "I think you find it in other countries where we've gone in."

Sopko's critique Thursday came just after the release of his office's most recent report, which described the situation on the ground in Afghanistan as "bleak" and warned that the Afghan government could be facing an "existential crisis."

Pentagon and State Department officials did not immediately respond to Sopko's criticism, but they repeatedly have defended U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Last week, America's most senior military officer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley, said Afghan forces were well trained and well equipped, even though the Taliban had "strategic momentum."

Milley also has defended the U.S. model known as “train, advise and assist,” calling it "the best approach" to counterterrorism.

Riaz Haq said...

Daniel Hale of UASF Intelligence: “During one five-month stretch of an operation in Afghanistan, the documents revealed, nearly 90 percent of the people killed were not the intended targets.”

In 2013, Daniel Hale was at an antiwar conference in D.C. when a man recounted that two family members had been killed in a U.S. drone strike. The Yemeni man, through tears, said his relatives had been trying to encourage young men to leave al-Qaeda.

Hale realized he had watched the fatal attack from a base in Afghanistan. At the time, he and his colleagues in Air Force intelligence viewed it as a success. Now he was horrified.

It was such experiences, Hale told a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday, that led him to leak classified information about drone warfare to a reporter after leaving the military.

“I believe that it is wrong to kill, but it is especially wrong to kill the defenseless,” he said in court. He said he shared what “was necessary to dispel the lie that drone warfare keeps us safe, that our lives are worth more than theirs.”

U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady sentenced Hale, 33, of Nashville, to 45 months in prison for violating the Espionage Act, saying his disclosure of documents went beyond his “courageous and principled” stance on drones.

“You are not being prosecuted for speaking out about the drone program killing innocent people,” O’Grady said. “You could have been a whistleblower . . . without taking any of these documents.”

Hale had pleaded guilty to one of five charges related to his dissemination of the documents; at sentencing, O’Grady dismissed the other four with prejudice, meaning they cannot easily be brought against him again.

Hale’s attorneys and advocates argued that the disclosures provided a valuable public service. The documents included a report finding that reliance on deadly attacks was undermining intelligence gathering. During one five-month stretch of an operation in Afghanistan, the documents revealed, nearly 90 percent of the people killed were not the intended targets.

Hale also disclosed the criteria for placing a person on the terrorism watch list, information that Muslim civil rights lawyers said in a letter to the court had helped them challenge the constitutionality of that system.

“I believe he only spoke out for humanitarian and educational purposes,” journalist Sonia Kennebeck told the court in a letter. She featured Hale in a 2016 documentary about drone warfare.

Prosecutors countered that Hale had put Americans at risk to boost his own ego. They noted that he began taking classified information to his home only a few weeks into a job at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in 2014, not long after swearing to preserve the government’s secrets.

“Hale did not in any way contribute to the public debate about how we fight wars,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg said in court. “All he did was endanger the people who are doing the fighting.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Russia's envoy Zamir Kabulov on #Pakistan: "Pakistan is Russia’s solid partner. We are on the same wavelength...Pakistan is interested in Afghanistan returning to normality and becoming a reliable trade and economic bridge connecting Pakistan and Eurasia"

Some forces in Pakistan would like to replicate what the Afghan Taliban movement (outlawed in Russia) did and destabilize the situation in the country, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said during an online briefing on Thursday.

"Pakistan is Russia’s solid partner. We are on the same wavelength as top Pakistani officials who have made public statements that they are not interested in Afghanistan turning into an Islamic Emirate that would influence Pakistani society, where there are forces that would be inspired by the Afghan Taliban’s experience and would try to destabilize the situation," he pointed out.

"Pakistan, along with Russia and almost all neighboring countries, is interested in Afghanistan returning to normality and becoming a reliable trade and economic bridge connecting Pakistan and Eurasia," Kabulov noted.

The Russian presidential envoy emphasized that a rise in tensions between Kabul and Islamabad had been caused primarily by the domestic political situation in Afghanistan. "Sometimes it seems that when those in Kabul who are supposed to protect their land from the Taliban fail to do that, they start searching for someone to blame and always consider Pakistan to be a suitable scapegoat," Kabulov said.

Riaz Haq said...

“Is Pakistan fueling a Taliban takeover?” #Afghan government points a finger at #Pakistan to divert attention from its own colossal failures. It's hard to separate fact from fiction when information is being weaponized. #Taliban, via @LowyInstitute

As districts fall to the Taliban one after another without resistance, the government in Afghanistan has squarely put the blame on Pakistan for the mayhem in the country.

This is because the Afghan officials believe that without help from Pakistan, the Taliban could not possibly takeover Afghanistan. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani chose to spark a war of words between Kabul and Islamabad in recent weeks after declaring Pakistan has played a “negative role in the Afghan conflict”.

But this effort to continually blame Pakistan is not only contrary to the evidence available on the ground but also presents a misleading narrative that masks the failures of the Afghan government itself. Oft neglected is the role of rampant corruption that delegitimised the Afghan government in the districts, allowing for an easy takeover by the Taliban. Rather than solely relying on brute force, which would require financial or covert military support from Pakistan, instead the Taliban is by and large seizing territory swiftly and regularly via local political deals over which Pakistan has no possible control.

In fact, contrary to the claims of the Afghan government, Pakistan has been helping the Afghan National Army. Dozens of Afghan soldiers have crossed the border into Pakistan to escape Taliban attacks. In each instance, Pakistan has provided haven to the Afghan soldiers and returned them to Afghan authorities with respect and dignity.

But it is hard to separate fact from fiction at a time when information amounts to heavy artillery in a broader political battle for support. Claims that Pakistan supports the Taliban in a “double game” is one such fiction that has persisted despite evidence to the contrary. It has severely damaged both the US war effort in Afghanistan and also Washington’s relations with Islamabad.

For the Ghani government, blaming Pakistan as the force behind the Taliban achieves twin political goals. It strips the Taliban of legitimacy as a local Afghan-led movement that aspires to share in governing Afghanistan, and shifts the burden of responsibility away from the Afghan government to its neighbour Pakistan as a reason for the US failures. Not only is this tactic disingenuous, dismissing all opposition as “Pakistani backed Taliban” and skating over the reasons why the Taliban continues to win support from the Afghan people themselves, it ignores support Pakistan has provided for Afghans, either as refugees or the hundreds of thousands that have studied and worked in Pakistan.

Moreover, it was the United States by negotiating directly with the Taliban that provided the group with legitimacy as an important player in the future of Afghanistan. The Ghani government had resisted dialogue with the Taliban, only to see the United States change its approach out of frustration with the Afghan leadership for its deep-rooted corruption and mismanagement, squandering the chance to govern and develop Afghanistan, which allowed the Taliban to maintain support.

Riaz Haq said...

Carter Malkasian, ex advisor to #US General Dunford, says: "if 200 Afghan police and army are confronted with 50 Taliban or less than that, and those government forces retreat, that doesn’t have a lot to do with Pakistan" #Taliban #Afghanistan #Pakistan

Let’s take Pakistan, for example. Pakistan is a powerful factor here. But on the battlefield, if 200 Afghan police and army are confronted with 50 Taliban or less than that, and those government forces retreat, that doesn’t have a lot to do with Pakistan. That has to do with something else.

The lack of unity within the government forces and tribes that compose it versus the relative unity that the Taliban have. That’s not to say they’re some kind of cohesive military force. They’re not. But if you compare the two relatively, the Taliban look a lot more coherent than the government does.

So what I wanted to do in the book, though, was highlight this other factor that was striking me repeatedly as I – as I studied Afghanistan: that something more was going on here, that I can’t explain how the government is being defeated or the Afghan military is being defeated if I look at solely the factors that we discussed here.

Let’s take Pakistan, for example. Pakistan is a powerful factor here. But on the battlefield, if 200 Afghan police and army are confronted with 50 Taliban or less than that, and those government forces retreat, that doesn’t have a lot to do with Pakistan. That has to do with something else.

And the thing I wanted to highlight there was how the Afghan forces have difficulty inspiring their men to fight hard. The Taliban can claim to be fighting for things deeply central to Afghan identity: We have an occupier here. You need to go and fight against that occupation. It’s in the history of the country. And honestly, it’s not something that’s solely in Afghan history. It’s something that tends to be important for peoples. We saw it in Vietnam. We’ve seen it in our own American Revolution. So that is a point that the Taliban are able to use. The government, on the other hand, has great difficulty using that point because they’re aligned with us and because there is more questioning about is the government really fighting here for what’s entirely right.

Now, the Islam part of this is – one needs to be extremely careful with because what I’m not saying here is that Islam is, like, inherently violent or something like that. What I am saying is that for someone who’s fighting for the government to know that they’re fighting on the side of a foreign occupier plus a foreign occupier who shares a different set of beliefs, they – more difficult to gather motivation, which I don’t think is something terribly hard to understand. But again, I do want to emphasize that I see a multiplicity of causes here, but I think this is an important one that deserves highlighting.

Riaz Haq said...

#Russian Envoy Kabulov: "it seems that when those in Kabul who are supposed to protect their land from the Taliban fail to do that, they start searching for someone to blame and always consider Pakistan to be a suitable scapegoat.” #Afghanistan #Pakistan

Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said last week that “Pakistan, along with Russia and almost all neighbouring countries, is interested in Afghanistan returning to normality and becoming a reliable trade and economic bridge connecting Pakistan and Eurasia.” He then added that “Sometimes it seems that when those in Kabul who are supposed to protect their land from the Taliban fail to do that, they start searching for someone to blame and always consider Pakistan to be a suitable scapegoat.”

Several days later, The Express Tribune cited its sources to report that Pakistani National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf and Director-General ISI Lt. General Faiz Hameed told US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan that Russia is also interested in supporting the Afghan peace process and preventing the on-going civil war there from worsening. That same day, Russia’s publicly financed TASS – its most reputable English-language media outlet which only reports facts and not any interpretations thereof like RT and Sputnik do – ran a story about The Express Tribune’s report in order to raise awareness among their audience of this friendly gesture.

Taken together, these three developments are noteworthy in the sense that they show how much Russia and Pakistan are politically supporting one another on Afghanistan. The Eurasian Great Power is nowadays officially critiquing Kabul’s tendency to exploit Pakistan as a scapegoat in Afghanistan. At the same time, Islamabad is reportedly reassuring Washington of its Russian rival’s peaceful intentions in that same country. This represents a milestone in the Russian-Pakistani rapprochement since it’s the first time that both countries have supported the others’ interests in Afghanistan in the face of third-party criticism.

It’s veritably the case that Kabul regularly uses Pakistan as a scapegoat the same as Washington has previously claimed that Russia has ulterior motives in Afghanistan (e.g. last summer’s Russia-Taliban bounty fake news scandal). That said, few could have expected Russia to officially defend Pakistan from Kabul’s scapegoating just as few could have expected Pakistan to reportedly defend Russia from the US’ suspicions about its intentions. This just goes to show how rapidly Russian-Pakistani relations are improving in recent years, accelerated as they are by their shared interests in Afghanistan.

Observers also shouldn’t overlook the importance of TASS reporting on the Express Tribune’s story about how two of the top Pakistani security officials defended Russia during their latest trip to the US. The publicly financed Russian outlet was presumably so impressed that it wanted to share this good news with their audience in order to inform them of how far Russian-Pakistani relations have come in such a short time. Their story can go a long way towards positively reshaping perceptions about Pakistan and helping others move beyond out-dated Old Cold War-era stereotypes about that South Asian country.

The takeaway from all of this is that it’s time for more experts to pay attention to Russian-Pakistani relations, especially the positive impact that they’ve had on the Afghan peace process. Many influential folks have been ignoring this for far too long to the detriment of their analyses’ accuracy. Their work will always remain incomplete without incorporating this important diplomatic dimension into the insight that they share. It’s impossible for anyone of importance to ignore this relationship any longer if they have professional integrity. At the very least, Russia’s and Pakistan’s defence of one another in the face of third-party criticism is newsworthy.

Riaz Haq said...

Taliban Take Second #Afghan City in Two Days.
Sheberghan’s fall comes after the #Taliban have seized — at times without firing a shot — about 200 of #Afghanistan’s 400-odd districts in recent months.

Another provincial capital, the second in two days, all but fell on Saturday in Afghanistan, officials said, this one in the country’s north, where a Taliban offensive has surrounded several cities since international forces began withdrawing in May.

The capital, Sheberghan, in Jowzjan Province, collapsed less than 24 hours after a provincial capital in southwestern Afghanistan was also taken over by the Taliban.

“The whole city has collapsed,” said Abdul Qader Malia, the deputy governor of Jowzjan. “Nothing is left.” On Saturday afternoon, government troops still controlled the airport and the army headquarters outside Sheberghan.

Much of the province, though, which borders Turkmenistan, is now under Taliban control.

The Taliban victories — and Afghan government defeats — come despite continued American air support and are the result of an insurgent strategy that has overstretched and exhausted Afghan government forces.

Sheberghan’s fall comes after the Taliban have seized — at times without firing a shot — about 200 of Afghanistan’s 400-odd districts in recent months. They have been pushing deep into the country’s north despite the region’s reputation for being an anti-Taliban stronghold and relatively secure.

The insurgents’ offensive has transformed into brutal urban combat as Taliban fighters have pushed into cities like Sheberghan and Kunduz in the north, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah in the south, and Herat in the west, leaving tens of thousands of civilians caught in the middle of a desperate struggle for control. Hundreds have been killed or wounded, and many more have been displaced.

On Friday, government forces in Sheberghan were thought to have beaten back the Taliban incursion, after insurgents entered the city and tried to overrun government buildings, like the Police Headquarters and the prison. The number of civilian casualties is unclear.

“The situation is so scary in the city,” said Matin Raufi, a Sheberghan resident. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The Taliban returned on Saturday, pushing deep into the city despite the security forces’ desperate attempts to defend what remained theirs.

“Government forces have retreated to the army brigade and airport, the two places still under their control, to regroup and plan counterattacks against the Taliban,” said Mohammad Karim Jawzjani, a member of Parliament from Jowzjan.

Sheberghan is the hometown of Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, an infamous warlord and a former Afghan vice president who has survived the past 40 years of war by cutting deals and switching sides. It was long expected that Marshal Dostum would rally the same Uzbek militias that fought in the country’s civil war in the 1990s and helped topple the Taliban after the United States’ invasion in 2001 to serve as a bulwark against the group’s recent surge.

Riaz Haq said...

#Taliban Seize 2 #Afghan Capital Cities in a Day. The fall of #Kunduz, a major northern hub, and another city, Sar-i-Pul, is a devastating blow to the Afghan government. Earlier, Sheberghan & Zaranj fell to the Taliban forces. #Afghanistan #US

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban seized two Afghan provincial capitals on Sunday, including the strategically crucial northern city of Kunduz, officials said, escalating a sweeping insurgent offensive that has claimed four regional capitals in just three days.

The rapid fall of Afghan cities — including Kunduz and Sar-i-Pul, another capital in the north — comes just weeks before U.S. forces were set to complete a total withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is a crucial challenge for President Biden, who in recent weeks has insisted the American pullout would continue despite the Taliban’s advances.

After sweeping through the country’s rural areas, the insurgents’ military campaign has shifted to brutal urban combat in recent weeks. They have pushed into the edges of major cities like Kandahar and Lashkar Gah in the south and Herat in the west.

The strategy has exhausted the Afghan government’s forces and overwhelmed the local militia forces that the government has used to supplement its own troops, a move reminiscent of the chaotic and ethnically divided civil war of the 1990s.

Kunduz, the capital of a province of the same name, is a significant military and political prize. With a population of 374,000, it is a vital commercial city near the border with Tajikistan, and a hub for trade and road traffic.

“All security forces fled to the airport, and the situation is critical,” said Sayed Jawad Hussaini, the deputy police chief of a district in Kunduz city.

Clashes between government forces and Taliban fighters were continuing in a small town south of the city, where the local army headquarters and the airport are situated, security officials said.

“We are so tired, and the security forces are so tired,” Mr. Hussaini said. “At the same time we hadn’t received reinforcements and aircraft did not target the Taliban on time.”

Security forces, who had retreated to the town earlier in the morning, began an operation to flush Taliban fighters out of the city on Sunday evening, according to security officials.

As Kunduz was collapsing on Sunday morning, the Taliban also seized Sar-i-Pul, the capital of another northern province of the same name, after heavy fighting in the area in recent days, officials said.

“Taliban are walking in the streets of the city. Local residents are terrified,” said Sayed Asadullah Danish, a member of the Sar-i-Pul provincial council. Provincial officials had taken shelter in an army base on the outskirts of the city, where clashes were continuing, he added.

In the two preceding days, the Taliban had taken two other provincial capitals: Sheberghan, the capital of Jowzjan Province in the north, and Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz Province on the Afghanistan-Iran border.

The Taliban briefly seized Kunduz in 2015 and again in 2016, gaining control of a province for the first time since American forces invaded in 2001. Both times, Afghan forces pushed back the insurgents with help from American airstrikes. Kunduz is also where an American gunship mistakenly attacked a Doctors Without Borders hospital in 2015, killing 42 people.

Since the U.S. withdrawal began, the Taliban have captured more than half of Afghanistan’s 400-odd districts, according to some assessments. Their attacks on provincial capitals have violated the 2020 peace deal between the Taliban and the United States. Under that deal, which precipitated the American withdrawal from the country, the Taliban committed to not attacking provincial centers like Kunduz.

Riaz Haq said...

Opinion: The United States and China are locked in a Cold Peace
By Fareed Zakaria

The Soviet Union barely existed on the economic map of the free world. It presided over a tightly controlled economic bloc of communist countries that had few connections — in trade or travel — with the rest of the planet. Mostly, its economy was about resources — oil, gas, nickel, copper, etc. China, by contrast, is deeply integrated into the world economy. It is now the world’s leading trading nation in goods. Twenty years ago, the vast majority of countries traded more goods with the United States than with China. Today, it has flipped. Last year, China replaced the United States as the European Union’s largest trading partner in goods.

China needs U.S. consumers for its economic growth. But conversely, many of the United States’ largest companies — from General Motors to Apple to Nike — need the Chinese market. The Walmart effect — the availability of low-priced goods of every kind to Americans — has been closely tied to sourcing from China. Even when you look at something such as the United States’ expanding green economy, you find the shadow of China behind it. Those solar panels you see everywhere have become so affordable and thus ubiquitous because many are made in China. And then there is the roughly $1 trillion worth of American debt that China holds.

The United States will need a strategy that mirrors the complexity of this relationship, one in which China is part competitor, part customer, part adversary. Some of this the Biden administration has done very well, bringing America’s allies together in a more united front against China, such as for its human rights abuses. But Biden is also confronting the reality that the United States’ allies have close economic ties with China. (In Asia, most countries have China as their largest trading partner.) They would like to have both strong trading relations with China and strong geopolitical ties with the United States. Forcing them to choose might create more problems than it solves.

Adding even more nuance, China is strong but it is not taking over the world. It faces substantial challenges ahead. It is graying quickly because of the legacy of Beijing’s one-child policy. It has still not shown that it can avoid the “middle income trap” faced by rising economies that aspire to join the ranks of rich ones. Chinese President Xi Jinping is nurturing the state sector and unleashing regulators on private companies. And China’s new, assertive foreign policy has caused a backlash from its biggest neighbors, from India to Australia to Japan. Last week, the Philippines renewed a defense agreement with the United States that it had long announced it was planning to end.

Can Washington embrace the complexity of this challenge? It is facing an economic powerhouse that, unlike Germany and Japan, is not dependent on the United States for its security. It faces a new great power that is not a democracy and has different values and beliefs, and yet has not occupied and controlled countries as Stalin’s Russia did during the 1940s (which is what triggered the Cold War).

And this is all happening in a world in which international trade has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. It’s not a new Cold War but something much more complicated: a Cold Peace.

Riaz Haq said...

Here’s some bad news for military analysts who do not tire of cheering America’s ‘defeat’ in Afghanistan: the US has left Afghanistan; it retains its position as a hegemon by Ejaz Haider

To sum up the above, the US military remains the most powerful armed force in the world, singly and in tandem with its allies. It can win wars but not conflicts, especially in areas where it is operating among foreign populations. The latter is also true of other militaries; two, use of force has many frameworks and success and failure would depend on how force is being applied, against whom and to what end. For instance, Iran uses proxies across the greater Middle East to neutralise its asymmetrical disadvantages and its relative military weaknesses against its adversaries. Israel uses a mix of strategies to retain its dominance. The IDF, one of the most formidable armed forces, had a hard time dealing with Hezbollah in the 2006 Lebanon War. But it remains the dominant military force in operations which do not require getting bogged down on the ground against elusive adversaries.


In case the argument is still unclear, let me assume a scenario for further clarification: in the event the Taliban take control of Kabul and with that a large part of Afghanistan, and in the event that they embark on a policy that the US considers inimical to its interests, the US has the capabilities to destroy Taliban forces. How? One, as noted earlier, the US can win a war against most adversaries very easily; two, the Taliban forces and assets — elusive as an insurgent force — will be over-the-ground as an established government. It’s difficult to operate against elusive forces; it’s easy to destroy concentrated targets.

Let me now come to another issue with reference to victory and defeat, which I flagged above. The US, a western hemisphere superpower, came to these shores to achieve its geopolitical objectives. It could achieve them both in ‘victory’ and ‘defeat’. What do I mean by that? In victory, i.e., in the event it could stabilise Afghanistan and Iraq, it would have two new allies; Iraqi stabilisation could also yield positive results for it in the Middle East. That did not happen and yet it now reaps the dividends of what many consider its ‘defeat’. How? It has cut its losses and gotten out, leaving regional countries to deal with Afghanistan’s likely spillover. Two of those countries are also its geopolitical competitors: China and Russia. Russia is already doing military drills with Uzbek forces as part of CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation); China is bracing up for any spillover effects in Xinjiang.

In the Middle East, if Iraq, Syria and Libya cannot be stable US allies along the lines, for instance, of the Southeast Asian states, the US and Israel can reap the benefits of continuing instability in the region. A fractured region is the second-best option if you can’t get a stable, peaceful, US-friendly region.

So, here’s some bad news for military analysts who do not tire of cheering America’s ‘defeat’ in Afghanistan: the US has left Afghanistan; it retains its position as a hegemon; it remains a nearly USD 23 trillion economy. Meanwhile, in this hour of ‘great victory’, Afghans are killing Afghans and by the looks of it, that’s not going to end anytime soon.

Hamid Dabashi, the celebrated Iranian-American author and academic recently wrote an article, “Why the US war in Afghanistan was a resounding success.” While I do not agree with many of his observations, he is spot-on when he says, “There is nothing sillier than the cliched assumption of Afghanistan as the “graveyard of empires”. The US empire did not die in Afghanistan, nor did Russian imperial designs before it. Quite the contrary: both the US and Russia are robust military and imperial machines at work from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean and beyond.”

Afghanistan is only the graveyard of Afghans. That’s called deep tragedy, not victory.

Riaz Haq said...

As #Taliban Capture Cities, #US Says #Afghan Forces Must Fend for Themselves. Muted #American response to Taliban siege shows in no uncertain terms that the U.S. war in #Afghanistan is over. #Shebergan #Lashkarghah #Mazar #Zaranj #Kunduz #Herat #Taloqan

If the Taliban had seized three provincial capitals in northern Afghanistan a year ago, like they did on Sunday, the American response would most likely have been ferocious. Fighter jets and helicopter gunships would have responded in force, beating back the Islamist group or, at the very least, stalling its advance.

But these are different times. What aircraft the U.S. military could muster from hundreds of miles away struck a cache of weapons far from Kunduz, Taliqan or Sari-i-pol, the cities that already had been all but lost to the Taliban.

The muted American response on Sunday showed in no uncertain terms that America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan is over. The mismanaged and exhausted Afghan forces will have to retake the cities on their own, or leave them to the Taliban for good.

The recent string of Taliban military victories has not moved President Biden to reassess his decision to end the U.S. combat mission by the end of the month, senior administration officials said Sunday. But the violence shows just how difficult it will be for Mr. Biden to extract America from the war while insisting that he is not abandoning the country in the middle of a brutal Taliban offensive.

In a speech defending the U.S. withdrawal last month, Mr. Biden said the United States had done more than enough to empower the Afghan police and military to secure the future of their people. U.S. officials have acknowledged that those forces will struggle, but argue they must now fend for themselves.

So far, the administration’s sink-or-swim strategy has not shown promising results.

Over the past week, Taliban fighters have moved swiftly to retake cities around Afghanistan, assassinated government officials, and killed civilians in the process. Throughout this, American officials have publicly held out hope that Afghan forces have the resources and ability to fight back, while at the same time negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban that seems more unlikely by the day.

Leon E. Panetta, who served as defense secretary under President Barack Obama, said he had expected to see more U.S. air support on Sunday, but he did not expect the situation would improve markedly even with the help of American forces.

“Let’s face it,” Mr. Panetta said. “The most you can hope for now is some kind of stalemate” between Afghan forces and Taliban fighters, who have demonstrated little interest in reaching an accord since the American troop withdrawal was announced.

At the Pentagon, where senior leaders have reluctantly cut off most military support to Afghanistan, officials were on phone calls Sunday about the unfolding events around Kunduz, a city of more than 350,000 people. The United States has twice in the past intervened to retake Kunduz from the Taliban.

But defense officials said there were no plans to take action this time beyond limited airstrikes. Over the past three weeks, the United States has used armed Reaper drones and AC-130 aerial gunships to target Taliban equipment, including heavy artillery, that threaten population centers, foreign embassies and Afghan government buildings, officials said.

Riaz Haq said...

#India behaved badly as temp president of #UNSC. #Pakistan is not the only aggrieved party. #Russia also expressed disappointment that Friday’s meeting was devoted exclusively to indulging in diatribes against the #Taliban and Pakistan. - Indian Punchline


Alas, India made a clumsy start to its long-awaited presidency. This farcical performance does no credit to India’s claim for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. There’s only 20 days left before the rotating presidency is passed on to Ireland. India’s nest turn will come only in December 2022, which is a long time in politics. Therefore, buckle up, mandarins. The country expects skilful, imaginative initiatives in the global commons from its diplomats.
India’s thirty-day tenure through August as the president of the UN Security Council has got mired in needless controversy. The issue is about the “emergency meeting” regarding Afghanistan that India convened on Friday. According to Pakistan, it had made a “a formal request” for participation in the meeting but India turned it down.

Prima facie, it was a fair request from Pakistan, since it is a neighbouring country with vital stakes in Afghanistan, whom the international community acknowledges to be a key player in the search for peace.

Suffice to say, if the Pakistani allegation is true, India acted rather petulantly. After all, India and Pakistan had no problem to find common ground regarding Afghanistan at the recent SCO ministerial in Dushanbe!

The optics are bad since this bold Indian “initiative” to convene the meeting followed a phone call from the Afghan foreign minister to his Indian counterpart and it all looks like a pre-planned affair to put down Pakistan on the mat. The old “itch”?

This only leads to misperceptions that India is party to President Ashraf Ghani’s increasingly desperate fight for political survival. Besides, India is flexing its diplomatic muscles even as the American planes are once again bombing the daylight out of Afghans from the safety of the skies.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is not the only aggrieved party. Russia has also expressed disappointment that Friday’s meeting was devoted exclusively to indulging in diatribes against the Taliban and Pakistan. The Russian diplomat pointed out on Friday that settlement in Afghanistan is possible only via talks, not hostilities, and calls for flexibility should be addressed to “both sides of the conflict, not one of them”.

Indeed, India has a tradition of standing by its Afghan friends in distress. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s offer to give political asylum to Najibullah in 1992 was a famous instance. India can do some such thing today.

If (rather, when) Ghani is forced to relinquish power and if he and his aides fear for their personal safety, we may offer them refuge by all means. The Afghan bazaar will appreciate such behaviour that conforms to their own Pashtunwali!

To my mind, Delhi should offer refuge to anyone from out there who served Indian interests at any time — and, of course, is genuinely interested in living in our country at such a time in its current history. But, beyond that, to be a partisan in the Afghan fratricidal strife at this late hour will be an unwarranted interference that cannot have a good outcome for India’s long-term interests.

Discretion is always the better part of valour when the endgame comes in successful insurgencies. False pride should not come in the way. Losers can accept defeat with dignity. The current developments clearly show that Ghani’s writ is steadily shrinking to Kabul city and its immediate environs. America’s B-52 bombers and Spectre gunships cannot change this reality. Pity, like the Bourbons, Americans never forget, never learn.

Riaz Haq said...

“There is no motivation for the army to fight for the corrupt government and corrupt politicians here,” said Ahmad Wali Massoud. “They are not fighting for Ghani. They are better off with the Taliban, which is why they are switching sides.” Our latest.

The Taliban captured the capital of the strategic Samangan province on Monday after a prominent pro-government commander switched sides, nearly completing their sweep of northern Afghanistan and intensifying a political crisis in Kabul.

The bloodless takeover of Aibak, which followed the seizure of four other nearby provincial capitals in the past three days, has allowed Taliban forces to unite in an assault on the biggest prize: northern Afghanistan’s main metropolis of Mazar-e-Sharif. Taliban forces attacked the now-isolated city of half a million people from different directions on Monday, but so far haven’t made significant inroads. Separately, insurgents battled government forces inside western Afghanistan’s main city of Herat.

The series of battlefield losses is fueling calls for President Ashraf Ghani —who has relied on a narrow circle of advisers and frequently changed key ministers and military commanders—to change how he governs or step aside. Kabul could fall to the Taliban within a few weeks unless all political forces opposed to the insurgency unite behind a common war plan, a senior government member warned.

In the months since President Biden announced in April his decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have launched a lightning offensive across the country. That is despite their commitment to seek a peaceful settlement in the February 2020 Doha agreement with the Trump administration.

Afghanistan’s U.S.-funded and U.S.-trained security forces have often melted away, and the main resistance to the Taliban has come from commando units, the National Directorate of Security intelligence agency, and militias affiliated with mujahedeen warlords.

“There is no motivation for the army to fight for the corrupt government and corrupt politicians here,” said Ahmad Wali Massoud, a former Afghan ambassador to London and a brother of legendary mujahedeen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated by al Qaeda in 2001. “They are not fighting for Ghani. They haven’t even been fed properly. Why should they fight? For what? They are better off with the Taliban, which is why they are switching sides like that.”

Mr. Ghani has been issuing wildly optimistic statements as government control collapsed in much of the country in recent weeks. On Saturday, as the Taliban began seizing provincial capitals, he held a lengthy conference on reforming the attorney-general’s office and then another meeting on implementing digitization reforms in the country’s public administration.

On Monday, he had a series of meetings with power brokers and mujahedeen commanders, and said that anti-Taliban “uprising” militias will be equipped and supported “within the government framework.”

While low-level commanders surrendered to the Taliban before, Monday’s defection by Asif Azimi, a former senator from Samangan and a prominent warlord in the mostly ethnic Tajik Jamiat-e-Islami party, represented the most significant such shift so far. Mr. Azimi’s move could set off a domino effect as other power brokers, convinced of the inevitability of a Taliban victory, rush to cut their own side deals. Jamiat-e-Islami, under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Massoud, was the driving force of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

Reached by phone in Samangan, Mr. Azimi said that Jamiat-e-Islami had been established with the aim of fostering Islamic rule when it fought against the Soviet-backed regime in the 1980s, and strayed from this path by aligning itself with the U.S. after 2001.

Riaz Haq said...

US DoD Press Secretary John Kirby: “..They’ve an airforce, the Taliban doesn’t. They’ve modern weaponry, the Taliban doesn’t. They’ve organisational skills, Taliban doesn’t. They’ve superior numbers to the Taliban. Again they have the advantage, advantages..”.

"I have the proof that they have a force of over 300,000 soldiers and police. They have a modern Air Force -- an Air Force, by the way, which we continue to contribute to and to -- and to improve. They have modern weaponry; they have -- they have an organizational structure. They have a lot of advantages that the Taliban don't have. Taliban doesn't have an Air Force, Taliban doesn't own airspace, they have a lot of advantages. Now, they have to use those advantages. They have to exert that leadership. And it's got to come both from a political and from the military side"

Riaz Haq said...

#US Asks #Taliban to Spare Its Embassy in Coming Fight for #Kabul. The demand seeks to stave off an evacuation of the embassy by dangling aid to future #Afghan governments — even one that includes the Taliban.

American negotiators are trying to extract assurances from the Taliban that they will not attack the U.S. Embassy in Kabul if the extremist group overruns the capital in a direct challenge to the country’s government, two American officials said.

The effort, led by Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief American envoy in talks with the Taliban, seeks to stave off an evacuation of the embassy as the fighters rapidly seize cities across Afghanistan. The Taliban’s advance has put embassies in Kabul on high alert for a surge of violence in coming months, or even weeks, and forced consulates and other diplomatic missions elsewhere in the country to shut down.

American diplomats now are trying to determine how soon they may need to evacuate the U.S. Embassy should the Taliban prove to be more bent on destruction than a détente. On Thursday, the embassy urged Americans who were not working for the U.S. government to leave Afghanistan immediately on commercial flights.

Biden administration officials insist that there are no immediate plans to significantly draw down the embassy’s staff of 4,000 employees, including about 1,400 Americans, as U.S. troops formally complete their withdrawal from the country.

“We are withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan, but we are not withdrawing from Afghanistan,” the State Department said in a statement. “Although U.S. troops will depart, the United States will maintain our robust diplomatic engagement with Afghanistan.”

Five current and former officials described the mood inside the embassy as increasingly tense and worried, and diplomats at the State Department’s headquarters in Washington noted a sense of tangible depression at the specter of closing it, nearly 20 years after U.S. Marines reclaimed the burned-out building in December 2001.

Several people gloomily revived a comparison that all wanted to avoid: the fall of Saigon in 1975, when Americans were evacuated from the embassy from a rooftop by helicopter.

The fears underscore what was unfathomable just a few years ago, when thousands of American forces were in Afghanistan and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul hosted one of the largest diplomatic staffs in the world.

“I don’t think people are yet at the point where they would say we need to get out the door, but they will be looking at the door a lot more often,” said Ronald E. Neumann, who was the American ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007 and is now the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy in Washington.

Mr. Khalilzad is hoping to convince Taliban leaders that the embassy must remain open, and secure, if the group hopes to receive American financial aid and other assistance as part of a future Afghan government. The Taliban leadership has said it wants to be seen as a legitimate steward of the country, and is seeking relations with other global powers, including Russia and China, in part to receive economic support.

Two officials confirmed Mr. Khalilzad’s efforts, which have not been previously reported, on condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate negotiations. The State Department’s spokesman, Ned Price, declined to comment on Wednesday, but said funding would be conditioned on whether future Afghan governments would “have any semblance of durability.”

“Legitimacy bestows, and essentially is the ticket, to the levels of international assistance, humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people,” Mr. Price said.

Riaz Haq said...

Regional powers #Russia, #China, #Iran, #Pakistan Extend Hands to #Taliban Now in Control of #Afghanistan. All 4 neighbors continue to maintain embassies in #Kabul

s the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan shakes the international community's commitment to the country, regional powers Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan continue to maintain their embassies in Kabul while expressing their willingness to work with its new leaders.

Just as the Taliban was getting settled in the capital, Russian ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov met with the group on Tuesday to discuss embassy security. Following his talks, he spoke highly of a group he said was conducting itself "in a responsible and civilized manner" since its largely peaceful capture of Kabul.

"They want to be sure there will be no provocations, to avoid shooting," Zhirnov said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 outlet. "Because practically everyone possesses weapons, even teenagers. It looks like they are afraid that should anything happen not through their fault it may cast a shadow on them as masters of the situation. They don't conceal it."

Speaking in Kaliningrad, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also saw "a positive signal" from the Taliban, specifically in the infamously hardline group's public commitments to respecting the views of others.

"We are convinced and have known that for quite a long time that only, as they say now, an inclusive dialogue involving all key forces can serve as a step towards normalization of the situation in Afghanistan," Lavrov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

Russia's turn toward accepting the Taliban's legitimacy comes after its own difficult history in Afghanistan. In 1979, the Soviet Union entered into a decade-long war in hopes of saving a Kabul-based communist administration from a mujahideen resistance that was backed the U.S. and regional powers including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It was forced to withdraw in defeat a decade later, paving the way for the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s.

The group took control of most of the country and effectively held Afghanistan until 2001, when the 9/11 attacks conducted by Taliban ally Al-Qaeda drew a massive U.S.-led intervention. Moscow initially supported the Western effort in Afghanistan, but came to criticize its handling over the course of two decades.

With the Taliban now back in control of Kabul, Lavrov told reporters that Moscow was "not rushing a recognition" of an Afghan government led by the a group that Russia still considers a terrorist organization. The decision mirrors the hesitation of other nations including Russia's strategic partner, China, which borders Afghanistan directly.

"Just yesterday I spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi," Lavrov added. "Our positions are in line."

Beijing is seeking to portray an open mind as the new dynamic unfolds.

"China has all along maintained contact and communication with the Afghan Taliban on the basis of fully respecting Afghanistan's sovereignty and the will of all factions in the country, and played a constructive role in promoting the political settlement of the Afghan issue," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday.

There was an important caveat, however.

Riaz Haq said...

#Taliban says no one will use #Afghan territory to launch attacks against anybody or any country. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid asserted that #WomensRights will be protected within Islamic law. #China #Pakistan #Iran #Russia #US via @AJEnglish

The Taliban held its first official news conference in Kabul since the shock seizure of the city, declaring on Tuesday it wished for peaceful relations with other countries.

“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said.

The spokesman asserted that the rights of women will be protected within the framework of Islam.

The group previously declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government, trying to calm nerves across a tense capital city that only the day before saw chaos as thousands mobbed the city’s international airport in a desperate attempt to flee.

Evacuation flights from Afghanistan resumed as a Western security official told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the Kabul airport’s tarmac and runway – which troops from the United States control – were now clear of crowds.

The official said military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan have started taking off.

At least seven people died in Monday’s chaos, including several people who clung to the sides of a jet as it took off.

The Taliban has meanwhile declared the war in Afghanistan over and a senior leader said the group would wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.

China said it was ready for “friendly relations” with the Taliban, while Russia and Iran also made diplomatic overtures.

Riaz Haq said...

#Afghan #Taliban visit #Hazara Neighborhood in #Kabul, Attend #Shia Majlis

Riaz Haq said...

#Taliban Having Fun in #Kabul, #Afghanistan: Surreal Footage Appears to Show #Afghan Taliban Driving Bumper Cars and Lifting Weights. In one clip, a group of men are trying out exercise equipment as one person holds a rocket launcher. via @viceSince the Taliban took control in Kabul on Sunday, the world has witnessed eerie and horrific scenes from the Afghan capital: people scrambling to secure passports, heartbreaking footage of Afghans clinging to flying planes (and later falling to their deaths), and pictures of women being covered up from public view.

But amid the chaos and uncertainty that has gripped the war-torn nation as it again faces life under Taliban rule, another set of videos shows members of the fundamentalist group engaging in almost childlike playfulness at local theme park rides and in a workout facility.

In one viral clip emerging in recent days, two men shared a ride in a bumper car while holding onto what appear to be rifles. Outside the rink, people looked on.Meanwhile, another video shows bearded men perched on small painted ponies on a merry-go-round.

Yet another video showed armed men using the gym. In the recording, a man pedals backwards fiercely on an elliptical machine while another is seen holding what appears to be a rocket launcher.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan has expanded its #economy at 4% CAGR & multiplied its #exports 10X in last 20 years. It's a global player in apparel/textiles, & lately exported its first #smartphones. #Taliban win next door could be a godsend or a nightmare via @BarronsOnline

The Taliban’s triumph is also a nightmare of sorts, making Pakistan an easy scapegoat for global outrage at the repression its fundamentalist clients are expected to impose. “Pakistan is very vulnerable to sanctions,” Nooruddin says. “All the capital they need to develop could get frozen pretty quickly.”

A key barometer to watch will be the Financial Action Task Force, the global anti-money laundering body. FATF put Pakistan on its “grey list” in 2018, finding “serious deficiencies” in the country’s monitoring regime. The Global X MSCI Pakistan exchange-traded fund (ticker: PAK) has lost half its value since then. Post-mortem scrutiny into Islamabad’s Taliban financing may quash chances of removing this blight. It could also affect further tranches of a $6 billion aid package Pakistan signed two years ago with the International Monetary Fund.

Imram Khan, the Oxford-educated prime minister who came to power two months after Pakistan’s grey listing, has underwhelmed as a reformist outsider. “There hasn’t been a huge amount of change,” says Alison Graham, chief investment officer for frontier-markets specialist Voltan Capital Management. “Khan seems to be cut from the same cloth as the surrounding political environment.”

She is still eyeing Pakistani investments on valuation grounds. “The trajectory of the market has been straight down for reasons I don’t quite understand,” she says. “Pakistan’s million political problems don’t affect its economic situation that much.”

Maurits Pot, chief investment officer at Dawn Global, chose Pakistan as one of five countries in his recently launched Asian Growth Cubs ETF (CUBS). Companies that leverage the nation’s youth and education levels, like software provider Systems (SYS.Pakistan), will prosper whatever geopolitics may bring, he argues. “It’s a very vibrant but cheap capital market,” he says.

Western ostracism of Pakistan should reach a limit, too. China, which has marked a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as one of the flagship projects in its One Belt One Road master plan, will be happy to take up slack as the West retreats. More importantly, Islamic revolution returning to underdeveloped Afghanistan may be a tragedy; Islamic revolution spreading to 225 million-strong, nuclear armed Pakistan would be a catastrophe. “The last thing the U.S. wants is two failed states next to each other,” Pot observes.

Pakistan had little choice but to become embroiled in Afghan politics, the Atlantic Council’s Nooruddin says. It is home to 25 million Pashtuns, the ethnic group that dominates the Taliban (and the just-ousted Afghan government), and needs to handle their loyalties delicately. “The Taliban have been a hassle for Pakistan to manage, and they’ve handled it reasonably well,” Graham adds.

That subtlety will quickly be lost, though, as the Taliban consolidates their reconquest of their homeland with cameras rolling. Pakistan won’t have much time to celebrate its good luck.

Riaz Haq said...

A tale of two Talibans

A UN report last year assessed that there were more than 6,000 Pakistani foreign fighters in Afghanistan, most belonging to TTP. These fighters not only fight with the Afghan Taliban but also stage cross-border attacks against Pakistan. According to the UN’s latest figures, there were more than 100 such attacks from July to October last year.

The Taliban has in the past denied that it hosts foreign fighters. But, when asked about this matter by TRT World, Mujahid would neither confirm nor deny the presence of TTP members in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. The US State Department declined to comment for this story, and Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not reply to emailed questions.

While much of the focus has been on Al Qaeda’s continuing relationship with the Taliban, less attention has been paid to TTP, a brutal terrorist organisation which wreaked havoc in Pakistan from 2007 to 2014 and seems to be undergoing a resurgence after several years of degraded capability.

TTP is a similar, but distinct, movement from the Afghan Taliban. While the latter emerged in the 1990s, TTP originated in the years following the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, when pro-Taliban Pakistani tribesmen along with Arab, Chechen, and Central Asian militants fled into Pakistan’s tribal areas and coalesced to form a new umbrella group, TTP, in 2007.

Where loyalties lie

TTP has from its inception supported the insurgency in Afghanistan, fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban and helping to shelter its fighters in Pakistan. TTP’s emirs have repeatedly pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban’s leader, although the two groups have separate chains of command.

Moreover, the Haqqani Network – part of the Afghan Taliban – has helped to repair divisions in the fissiparous TTP. “Both Jalal and Siraj Haqqani mediated jirgas to resolve organisational issues and factionalism in the TTP,” said Asfandyar Mir, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation.

However, although the two groups’ aims overlap, they do not match. “The Afghan Taliban, while it has ties to international terror groups, is a local insurgency targeting the Afghan state,” said Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center.

“The Pakistani Taliban targets the Pakistani state, and when it had more strength, it also had overseas targets in its crosshairs, including America,” Kugelman told TRT World. TTP, unlike the Afghan Taliban, has been designated as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US.

The two also have different sponsors. The Afghan Taliban receives sanctuary from Pakistan, while the TTP has allegedly been backed by the Afghan government. Afghanistan’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Islamabad insists that India backs the TTP, too, and produced a largely secret dossier last year that apparently contains evidence of those links. Delhi has firmly rejected such allegations.

“The two groups are cut from the same ideological cloth,” said Michael Kugelman, both followers of the Deobandi school of Sunni Hanafi Islam. But TTP is “much closer” to the global jihadist agenda of “targeting the far enemy”, Kugelman told TRT World. It has attacked Chinese nationals and tried to bomb Times Square in New York City in 2010.

While both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban work with Al Qaeda, in TTP’s case the relationship is stronger. “Al Qaeda has played an instrumental role in the foundation, rise, and expansion of TTP,” said Abdul Sayed, an independent researcher on jihadism and the politics and security of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

The TTP’s leadership “sought Al Qaeda counselling or approval” in important decisions, Sayed told TRT World, referring to documents seized from the Bin Laden compound. Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), the group’s regional affiliate, has also participated in cross-border attacks with TTP, Sayed said.

Riaz Haq said...

What the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan means for India and Pakistan | The Economist

Besides losing all its investment in a secular, democratic Afghanistan, India has also lost strategic leverage. There were never Indian troops in Afghanistan, but its aid projects and four consulates certainly spooked the generals running the show in Pakistan. India’s close ties with the Afghan government gave its own security establishment a whiff of “over-the-horizon” influence that felt appropriate to an emerging superpower. When Pakistan-backed Islamists mounted terrorist attacks on India and stirred violence in its restive region of Kashmir, India could threaten to use its Afghan assets to stir trouble in Pakistan’s restive region of Balochistan. Now, with Mr Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government having stirred its own troubles in Kashmir, by stripping the region of autonomy in 2019, it must face the prospect of a new generation of Muslim Kashmiris inspired by the Taliban’s fanaticism.

Perhaps because its spies read the writing on the wall, or perhaps because its teachers and engineers increasingly risked being kidnapped, India had wound down its Afghan presence in recent years. Yet it was only in June that Indian envoys took the first tentative steps to engage with the Taliban. The reckoning with what an abrupt American departure from its backyard means for India has also been slow to settle. The Times of India, the country’s biggest-circulation English daily, voiced one common perception in a sour editorial on August 16th: “At a time when India has strategically hitched its wagon to the us, the Afghan situation should make New Delhi think twice about putting all its eggs in Washington’s basket.”
This is a conclusion that Pakistan, as well as its “all-weather friend” China, will be happy for India to draw. With a stagnant economy and stymied politics, India’s nuclear-armed neighbour has not had much to cheer about of late. So it is that even if urban Pakistanis have little affinity with the Taliban, many are crowing at the Islamists’ success. Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, went so far as to proclaim that Afghans had “broken the chains of slavery” with the West.
Mr Durrani says that Pakistan itself deserves no credit for the Taliban victory, except for having resisted pressure from America and its allies to crack down on the group. He is too modest. The original Taliban, or “students”, of the 1990s, were students in Pakistani madrassas. Certainly, after America’s invasion in 2001, the Taliban would never have survived their years in the wilderness without the haven provided by Pakistan.
That Pakistan has stood by the Taliban is especially striking, considering that an ideological affiliate based in Afghanistan, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (ttp), has terrorised Pakistan itself, for example by slaughtering more than 145 children and adults at an army-run school in 2014. Questioned about reports that the Taliban have released ttp leaders from the Afghan prisons, the Pakistani interior minister says airily that he hopes for an agreement between the two countries not to allow their soil to be used to attack the other. Luckily for Pakistan’s generals they are rarely held accountable for any violent “blowback” from the isi’s nastier associates. Aside from the occasional diversion of a television interview, Mr Durrani can continue to enjoy his retirement in peace.

Riaz Haq said...

Ambassador Ryan Crocker on #US exit from #Afghanistan:"We have again validated their (#Pakistanis) skepticism". Pakistanis "knew we (US) will go home but they aren’t going anywhere--this is where they live".They'd not "turn the Taliban into a mortal enemy"

I recall the comment attributed to a captured Taliban fighter from a number of years ago: You Americans have the watches, but we have the time. Sadly that view proved accurate — the Taliban outlasted us and our impatience. After the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of U.S.-trained and armed mujahedeen in 1989, training that was facilitated by Pakistan, we decided we were done. We could see the Afghan civil war coming — the only thing holding the disparate Afghan groups together was a common enemy. But that was not our problem — we were leaving. On the way out, we stopped helping Pakistan in a key way: We ended security and economic assistance because of its nuclear weapons program, something we’d exempted before. So Pakistan, in its own narrative, went from being the most allied of allies to the most sanctioned of adversaries. That is why Pakistan threw its support to the Taliban when they started gaining ground in the 1990s: It could end a dangerous conflict along Pakistan’s own unstable borders.

And that is why a decade later after 9/11, Pakistan welcomed the return of the United States — and U.S. assistance. It would work with us against Al Qaeda. But we soon learned that the Taliban were a sticky matter. I was ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007. I pushed Pakistani officials repeatedly on the need to deny the Taliban safe havens. The answer I got back over time went like this: “We know you. We know you don’t have patience for the long fight. We know the day will come when you just get tired and go home — it’s what you do. But we aren’t going anywhere — this is where we live. So if you think we are going to turn the Taliban into a mortal enemy, you are completely crazy.”

We have again validated their skepticism.

The Washington Post notes that “as the Taliban swept across neighboring Afghanistan, some Pakistanis saw it as a reason to celebrate.” Yet I doubt there are many high fives being exchanged in Islamabad today. The American disaster in Afghanistan that Mr. Biden’s impatience brought about is not a disaster just for us. It has also been a huge boost for the Taliban, whose narrative now is that the believers, clad in the armor of the one true faith, have vanquished the infidels. That is resonating around the world, and certainly next door in Pakistan where the T.T.P. — the Pakistani Taliban, which seeks the overthrow of their government — has certainly been emboldened, as have Kashmiri militant groups created by Pakistan but that threaten Pakistan itself as well as India. Mr. Biden’s strategic impatience has given a huge boost to militant Islam everywhere.

We need to be engaged with Pakistan on ways to assess and deal with this enhanced threat. The prospect of violent destabilization of a country with about 210 million people and nuclear weapons is not a pretty one. The same is true in Iran. It’s always good to see the Great Satan take a kick in the face, and it’s worth a little gloating, but the Islamic Republic and the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate almost went to war in 1998. A region is worried, and it is right to be so.

Riaz Haq said...

#China warns #India after latest #terrorist attack in #Gwadar , #Pakistan:
“China will not only support Pakistan to strike a heavy blow to these terror forces, but also warn all the external forces to stay away from those terror forces” #CPEC #TTP #BLA

In this region, some US and Indian intelligence forces keen to infiltrate into Pakistan have held a hostile attitude toward China's BRI. Blocking the development of the BRI has become their main target to contain China's rise.

And, the terror attack that targeted Chinese engineers who worked for the Dasu hydropower project is said to be fueled by the Indian intelligence agency.

The intentions of the international forces must have influenced and incited terror forces in Pakistan. It is highly likely that those forces collude with and support terrorism in Pakistan. China must be prepared for a long-term fight, together with the Pakistani government, against terrorism in Pakistan. China needs to resolutely support the Pakistani government to crack down on terrorism.

In addition, we'd like to urge the new government in Afghanistan to strike the terrorist forces that were groomed in Afghanistan but now active in Pakistan. This is a window through which China could observe the new government of Afghanistan.

Terror forces in Balochistan, especially the notorious Balochistan Liberation Army, have conducted the most attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan. And, the Pakistani Taliban is a vital threat too.

China will not only support Pakistan to strike a heavy blow to these terror forces, but also warn all the external forces to stay away from those terror forces. Once China obtains evidence that they support terrorist forces in Pakistan, China will punish them.

Riaz Haq said...

Why so much poppy grows in Afghanistan?

1. Poppy plant is very hardy. It grows easily in Afghan soil where other crops are much harder to grow.

2. Harvesting poppy is labor intensive and uses a lot of people in a place like Afghanistan where there's very little mechanization.

3. Poppy earns a lot of cash to support the economy.

Via APM Marketplace radio show

Despite the U.S. spending approximately $8.97 billion over the past two decades trying to eradicate Afghanistan’s illegal drug trade, it remains the world’s biggest supplier of illicit opium and the crop remains an important source of funding for the Taliban.

Jeffrey Clemens, an associate professor of economics at the University of California at San Diego, spoke with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal about the economic fundamentals that helped doom the U.S. effort to suppress opium production in Afghanistan and what it means for the Taliban’s power. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: Can we do a little ground truth here before we dig in? Drug trafficking and the Afghan economy — contextualize that for me.

Jeffrey Clemens: Sure. According to the United Nations, in 2020, Afghan farmers would have received something on the order of $500 million associated with selling the opium that they’ve cultivated, and the estimated value of the heroin and other opiates as they cross the border out of Afghanistan and into other countries is somewhere on the order of $2 billion. So, that amount accounts for something like 10% of its overall [gross domestic product].

Ryssdal: OK, here’s the thing: The American government spent billions of dollars over the past 20 years trying to eradicate the opium trade. Obviously, it has failed. First of all, was that a fool’s errand?

Clemens: Yes. I think it was a fool’s errand, in large part because the cultivation of opium poppy by Afghan farmers and the trafficking of that opium and heroin out of the country is something that, unfortunately, just has made sense in terms of economic fundamentals within Afghanistan. Should I take a minute to unpack that?

Ryssdal: Yeah, that’d be great, actually.

Clemens: Sure. So you know, when we think about why Afghanistan has played such a major role in the global trade in opiates, there are a few, you know, in some ways, very mundane reasons why that’s the case. So for one, the agricultural land in Afghanistan is not that great, and opium poppy turns out to be a pretty hardy crop. The second issue is that the infrastructure in Afghanistan is quite bad, which means that there’s more risk than you might expect for cultivating relatively perishable crops. Opium tends to be relatively nonperishable, and it’s also pretty lightweight for the cash value. And then finally, opium poppy is incredibly labor-intensive to harvest. And so an economy like Afghanistan’s, where there, you know, isn’t a lot of high-tech capital associated with the agricultural sector, ends up being a place where opium poppy tends to thrive. And so the U.S. and international effort to suppress the opium trade is trying to push against all of these, you know, pretty basic economic fundamentals, making it, as you said, a fool’s errand.

Riaz Haq said...

#Afghanistan: Can the #Taliban fly abandoned #American #aircraft? More than two dozen MiG-21 fast attack jets left by #Russians fell into Taliban hands....#Pakistani support kept them flying. #US #Pakistan

“What’s sure is that they have at least several Mi-17 of different versions operational,” said Lukas Muller, the author of Wings Over the Hindu Kush, a book on the history of the air war in Afghanistan.

“I bet that this would make the ‘core’ of the Taliban air force in the months to come. It’s relatively easy to maintain and spares are widely available on the open market, as there are non-military versions of this type. Actually, this type was the most common aircraft used in the 1990s civil war, when even very small factions with limited foreign contacts could operate it,” he said.

Even with the Mi-17s, the Taliban would face huge challenges.

“The United States provided at least two aircraft types to the Afghans that were too complex for most, if not all, developing countries to expect to maintain or sustain without long-term or even permanent outside assistance: the C-130 and the UH-60,” Mr Marion toldThe National.

“The Black Hawk was far more complex than the rugged, Soviet/Russian-built Mi-17 with which the Afghans were very familiar; also the Mi-17 was more capable than the UH-60 in the Afghan environment. The Mi-17 was built specifically for Afghanistan,” he said.


A key moment came after the Soviet withdrawal, Mr Marion said, with the Taliban’s capture of Kandahar airfield in 1994 during the Afghan civil war.

More than two dozen MiG-21 fast attack jets fell into Taliban hands, Mr Marion writes, and the militants forced Colonel Abdul Shafi Noori, commander of Kabul Air Wing maintenance group, to keep the planes airworthy. Pakistani support also kept operations going.

But not all of the Taliban’s “maintainers” and pilots were forced to collaborate.

Mr Marion recalled that one Afghan pilot who flew in the Soviet-backed Afghan air force went on to fly missions for the Taliban then became a shopkeeper after 2001 and then rejoined the Coalition-backed air force to fight the Taliban once more.

Another pilot flew for the short-lived, anti-Taliban Rabbani-Massoud government, which briefly held Kabul during the civil war, then defected.

“I quit from Dostum’s camp because he wants to dismember Afghanistan,” one such pilot told AFP in 1997, a reference to the brief rule of the Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Riaz Haq said...

Get the Generals Out of Pakistani-U.S. Relations
Civilian-led outreach can find areas of actual cooperation instead of mutual blame.
By Adam Weinstein, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute.

What makes the U.S.-Pakistan relationship so toxic is not that their interests have diverged widely from the halcyon days of anti-Soviet cooperation but the prevailing assumption that their differences can only be managed through coercive engagement, money thrown at the problem, or disengagement

One root cause of this dysfunction is relations are largely managed through the two countries’ security establishments. In 2018, then-commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel testified to the House Armed Services Committee, saying he spoke to his Pakistani counterpart “almost weekly.” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has spoken by phone with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, at least four times, and in early September, CIA director William Burns met with Bajwa and ISI Director-General Faiz Hameed. U.S. President Joe Biden has yet to call Khan, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met in person for the first time last week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have often grown closer during periods of military rule, such as during the 1960s under then-Pakistani President Ayub Khan, the 1980s under then-Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, and the early 2000s under Musharraf. Ties grew noticeably colder under the civilian leadership of then-Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s, who ultimately accused Washington of plotting against him prior to his imprisonment and execution by Zia-ul-Haq.

Washington’s leaders might say they have no choice but to deal directly with Pakistan’s security establishment, which is the country’s real decision-maker on matters of national security. But Washington, as Bolton’s words in 2010 indicated, has also grown accustomed to the political expediency of going straight to Pakistan’s brass and sidelining its civilian government. Bush’s “with us or against us” ultimatum to military dictator Pervez Musharraf was successful precisely because he was the sole decision-maker. Had Pakistan been a genuine democracy 20 years ago, fully accountable to its lawmakers and public opinion, then things might have gone differently. Instead, Washington and Islamabad’s spymasters and generals have eked out a working relationship while the civilian government remains disengaged.

Congress’s dubious attitude toward Pakistan was best summarized by Rep. Bill Keating when he recently described it as “one relationship that really always troubled me.” During that same hearing, Rep. Scott Perry struck at the heart of Pakistan’s insecurities when he exclaimed, “we should no longer pay Pakistan [for counterterrorism cooperation], and we should pay India.” Recently introduced legislation calls for an assessment of Pakistan’s past support for the Taliban but falls short of any punitive measures.

Khan’s jovial charm is powerful, but it hasn’t led to a significant shift in Washington perceptions of Pakistan, save for a few well-tended interlocutors like Sen. Lindsey Graham. But even there, praise for Islamabad is sometimes little more than an underhanded compliment intended to poke at a domestic political rival, such as when Graham criticized Biden for failing to reach out to Khan by phone—a snub that is a source of anxiety in Islamabad and a sign of how little Biden prioritizes Pakistan’s civilian leadership.

Riaz Haq said...

Get the Generals Out of Pakistani-U.S. Relations
Civilian-led outreach can find areas of actual cooperation instead of mutual blame.
By Adam Weinstein, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute.

On Sept. 27, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan penned an op-ed in the Washington Post asking the United States to stop scapegoating Pakistan. He has a point. Pakistan’s nefarious role in Afghanistan is very real, but scapegoating Islamabad also became a coping mechanism for Washington and Kabul to avoid confronting their own failures. Washington’s unhealthy reliance on Pakistan throughout its war in Afghanistan kept the relationship at a dysfunctional equilibrium, but now relations are at risk of degenerating sharply, and the two countries have only themselves to blame. Overcoming this requires both Washington and Islamabad to prioritize realistic areas of cooperation over rehashing tired narratives of blame.

Pakistan, once rattled by the United States’ arrival in Afghanistan, became comfortable with the status quo of gradual Taliban gains kept at bay by a stuck United States reliant on Pakistan’s help. Islamabad only began to show inklings of buyer’s remorse over its support of the Taliban as the U.S. withdrawal deadline grew closer.

Almost exactly one year earlier, Khan penned an op-ed in the Washington Post warning against a “hasty international withdrawal” from Afghanistan. It was a carefully worded paean to Pakistan’s efforts in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. Khan concluded that “bloodless deadlock on the negotiating table is infinitely better than a bloody stalemate on the battlefield.” He got the deadlocked negotiations—but the result was anything but bloodless. Afghanistan descended into a tempest of Taliban-led fighting, unclaimed targeted killings with the Taliban quick to use Islamic State-Khorasan for plausible deniability, and diplomatic gridlock.

Islamabad’s hopes for what it called a “geoeconomic reset” that would broaden relations beyond security were cast aside by a new iteration of “do more.” As the Taliban advanced, Pakistan’s purported red line for its intransigent protégé retreated from don’t restore Afghanistan to don’t enter Kabul by force. That second line was never tested as the Taliban simply moseyed into the capital following the collapse of the Afghan government.


The “maximum pressure” campaign used against Iran eroded the middle class, hurt private businesses, was a boon for ventures backed by the security establishment, and helped advance hard-liner narratives. A copy-and-paste application of this failed policy in Pakistan would likely produce similar results or simply foment a rally-around-the-flag effect. Some critics of Washington’s reliance on Pakistan propose a narrower approach focused on targeted sanctions against specific officials, ending its major non-NATO ally status, and scaling back attempts to cooperate. But like it or not, Pakistan’s cooperation is crucial for continued evacuations, refugee resettlement, and economic development in Afghanistan. Even some of the biggest critics of Pakistan’s security establishment have credited it with assisting Washington against transnational terrorist groups. Washington and Islamabad will likely continue to fight these groups together, even if the target list is narrower than the U.S. Defense Department and the CIA prefer. Pakistan also holds an inherent importance as a nuclear-armed country of more than 226 million people that finds itself on the front lines of climate change.

Riaz Haq said...

#American Weapons, Now for Sale in #Afghan #Gun Shops. Many gun dealers have smuggled the weapons to #Pakistan, where demand for #US-made weapons is strong. #Afghanistan #Kandahar #Kabul

The loss of tens of millions of dollars in American-made weapons and gear is yet another costly consequence of the failed, 20-year mission to Afghanistan. It ended in chaos and upheaval when the Taliban seized Kabul on Aug. 15 after crushing an Afghan military built, trained and funded by the United States.

Over the years, the United States provided the Afghan military with a huge array of arms and vehicles, including M4 carbines, rockets, A-29 light attack aircraft, Humvees, and copious ammunition for assault rifles and machine guns, according to a recent report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. For the two previous fiscal years ending in June, the amount spent on the Afghan military totaled $2.6 billion.

The Pentagon on Monday acknowledged that a large number of American-supplied arms remained in Afghanistan.

“Since 2005, the U.S. military has provided the Afghan national defense and security forces with many thousands of small arms, ranging from pistols to medium machine guns,” Maj. Rob Lodewick, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement to The Times.


The Taliban seized troves of American weapons and vehicles from surrendering Afghan soldiers. Now, gun dealers are doing a brisk business.

In the chaos of the American military withdrawal and the Taliban takeover this summer, thousands of American-made weapons and tons of military equipment were seized by the militants as government military bases surrendered or were overrun.

With the Taliban in power, more American weapons and military accessories are now being openly sold in shops by Afghan gun dealers who paid government soldiers and Taliban fighters for guns, ammunition and other matériel, according to weapons dealers in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan.

In interviews, three weapons dealers in Kandahar said that dozens of Afghans have set up weapons shops in Afghanistan’s south, selling American-made pistols, rifles, grenades, binoculars and night-vision goggles. The equipment was originally provided to the Afghan security forces under a U.S. training and assistance program that cost American taxpayers more than $83 billion through two decades of war.

During the insurgency, the Taliban eagerly sought out American-supplied weapons and gear. But now much of that weaponry is being sold to Afghan entrepreneurs because Taliban demand has eased with the end of combat, the gun merchants said. They say that many gun dealers have smuggled the weapons to Pakistan, where demand for American-made weapons is strong.

Riaz Haq said...

Three Senior #TTP Commanders Killed In Blast In #Afghanistan. The men were traveling in the Birmal district of the Afghan province of Paktika when their car hit a roadside mine on the evening of August 7. #Pakistani #Taliban #Terrorists via @GandharaRFE

One of the commanders was Abdul Wali alias Omar Khalid Khorasani, who was considered to have been one of the most influential and ruthless TTP leaders. The other two were identified as Hafiz Dawlat and Mufti Hassan.

The men were traveling in the Birmal district of the Afghan province of Paktika when their car hit a roadside mine on the evening of August 7, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The three commanders were said to be based in Afghanistan's Kunar and Nangarhar provinces. They were traveling to Birmal “for consultation,” the sources said, without providing any further details.

The news comes at a time when Pakistani authorities are in contact with the militant group’s leadership to discuss a peace agreement. A truce has already been in place between the TTP and the Pakistani military for the past two months.

Khorasani belonged to Pakistan’s Mohmand tribal district and was said to in charge of the Mohmand branch of the Pakistani Taliban.

Hassan was among the nearly a dozen TTP commanders who had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi, the slain leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.

Sources say some TTP circles consider Hassan to have been responsible for inciting infighting in the TTP a few years ago.

Dawlat was considered to have been important TTP commanders and a close confidant of Khorasani.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s #Taliban problem is #America’s too. It raises the possibility that the #US could target #TTP commanders found operating in #Afghanistan – much as it killed #AlQaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a #drone strike in #Kabul in September.

When the United States withdrew its forces from Afghanistan after 20 years in the country, it did so on a promise that the Taliban once back in government would provide no haven for terrorist groups.

The Taliban pledge covered not only al Qaeda – the terror group whose presence in the country led to the US invasion in 2001 – but also the Taliban’s ideological twin next door, the Pakistani Taliban or TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan).

But the recent break down of an already shaky year-long ceasefire in neighboring Pakistan between the TTP and Islamabad raises some troubling questions over whether that promise will hold.

The end of the ceasefire in Pakistan threatens not only escalating violence in that country but potentially an increase in cross-border tensions between the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

And it is already putting links between the Afghan Taliban and its Pakistani counterpart under the spotlight.

As recently as spring last year Pakistani Taliban leader Noor Wali Mehsud told CNN that in return for helping to push the US out of Kabul his group would expect support from the Afghan Taliban in its own fight.

Like their erstwhile brothers in arms in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban want to overthrow their country’s government and impose their own strict Islamic code.

In an exclusive interview with CNN this week, Mehsud blamed the ceasefire’s breakdown on Islamabad, saying it “violated the ceasefire and martyred tens of our comrades and arrested tens of them.”

But he was more guarded when asked directly whether the Afghan Taliban was now helping his group as he had once hoped.

His answer: “We are fighting Pakistan’s war from within the territory of Pakistan; using Pakistani soil. We have the ability to fight for many more decades with the weapons and spirit of liberation that exist in the soil of Pakistan.”

Those words should be of concern not only to Islamabad, but Washington too.

The FBI has been tracking the TTP for at least a decade and a half, long before they radicalized and trained Faisal Shazad for his brazen attack setting fire to a vehicle in New York’s Times Square in 2010.

Following the Times Square attack the TTP was designated a terrorist organization and is still considered a threat to US interests.

And while Islamabad is keen to play down the threat from the group – Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah says Pakistan can “fully” control conflict with the TTP and describes conversations with the TTP during the ceasefire as talks “which are held in a state of war” – its control of the situation pivots on the TTP remaining within Pakistan’s borders.

There are growing questions about the TTP’s reach and Islamabad’s perception of the situation does not match Mehsud’s.

In April this year, the Pakistani military struck targets in Afghanistan warning that “terrorists are using Afghan soil with impunity to carry out activities inside Pakistan.”