Showing posts with label AfPak. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AfPak. Show all posts

20 July 2017

*** Pakistan: Forces Under Fire In Balochistan – Analysis

By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty*

The Superintendent of Police (SP), Mubarak Shah, and three of his Police guards were shot dead when motorcycle-borne terrorists opened indiscriminate fire at a Police Mobile unit while it was patrolling in the Killi Deba area of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, on July 13, 2017. Senior Police Official Abdul Razzaq Cheema disclosed that the attackers opened fire from different directions, killing Quaidabad SP Mubarak Shah and his three Police guards, adding that terrorists managed to escape from the scene of the crime. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction, Jama’at-ul-Ahrar (JuA), claimed responsibility for the attack. Asad Mansur, JuA spokesman, claimed in a message issued on social media after the incident, “We carried out the armed attack on police officials.”

Just three days earlier, the District Police Officer (DPO) of Qilla Abdullah, Sajid Khan Mohmand, and his security guard and driver were killed and over 10 other people, including five Police personnel, were injured in a suicide blast in the border town of Chaman in the Qilla Abdullah District of Balochistan on July 10, 2017. Sources indicated that DPO Mohmand was on an inspection of the Eidgah area of Boghara Road with his team, when the suicide bomber riding a motorcycle blew himself up after hitting the Police vehicle. Mohmand died on the spot as the suicide bomber hit the vehicle on the side where he was sitting. The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack.

Trump's Afghanistan Strategy Is Simply Old Wine in a New Bottle

Michael Kugelman

If America goes all-in on Afghanistan and fails, it'll be easier to walk away.

Afghanistan has suffered through a harrowing summer, even by the nightmarish standards of a country convulsed by conflict for decades.

On May 31, a truck bomb exploded in Kabul’s heavily fortified diplomatic enclave, killing more than 150 people. On June 2, Afghans, furious about their government’s failure to provide security, took to the streets of Kabul. Security forces cracked down, killing at least five people. One of them was the son of the deputy leader of Afghanistan’s Senate. His funeral the next day, attended by top Afghan political leaders, was rocked by three explosions that killed at least twenty people.

This merciless cycle of violence continued unabated. Two bomb blasts at Shia Muslim mosques, one in Herat on June 6 and the other in Kabul on June 15, killed seven and four people, respectively. On June 18, an assault on a police station in eastern Afghanistan killed five officers. On June 20, eight Afghan guards employed at Bagram, the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan, were gunned down in an ambush as they headed to the base to work a night shift. And on June 22, a car bomb outside a bank in Helmand Province claimed at least thirty lives.

That’s at least 229 dead in just twenty-three days.

Against this bloody backdrop, the Trump administration plans to send several thousand more soldiers to Afghanistan—even as it continues to flesh out a broader strategy.

Trump's new Afghanistan strategy may draw on old, controversial methods


In keeping with his elevation of military leaders to roles in policymaking, President Donald Trump has delegated the authority to set US troop levels in Afghanistan to Defense Secretary James Mattis, though that power reportedly comes with limits .

But the administration has yet to settle on an overarching strategy for the US' nearly 16-year-long campaign in the war-torn country.

And, according to The New York Times, Trump's advisers have turned to a controversial set of consultants to help develop their new Afghanistan policy.

Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president's senior adviser and son-in-law, called in Erik Prince, who founded the Blackwater private-security firm, and Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire who owns military contractor DynCorp, to create proposals to use contractors in Afghanistan rather than US troops.

According to the Times, Bannon was able to track down Mattis at the Pentagon on July 8 and brought in Prince and Feinberg to describe their proposal to the defense secretary.

Mattis, whom the Times said "listened politely," ultimately declined to include their ideas in his review of the war in Afghanistan, which he and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster are set to deliver to Trump this month.

19 July 2017

*** The 'Blackwater 2.0' Plan for Afghanistan

Here’s a crazy idea floating around Washington these days, outlandish even by today’s outlandish standards: The United States should hire a mercenary army to “fix” Afghanistan, a country where we’ve been at war since 2001, spending billions along the way. The big idea here is that they could extricate U.S. soldiers from this quagmire, and somehow solve it.

Not surprisingly, the private-military industry is behind this proposal. Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private military company Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, each see a role for themselves in this future. Their proposal was offered at the request of Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law, according to people briefed on the conversations.

It could get worse. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Prince laid out a plan whereby the fighting force would be led by an American viceroy who would report directly to Trump. Modeled after General Douglas MacArthur, who ruled Japan after World War II, the viceroy would consolidate all American power in a single person. His mission: Do whatever it takes to pacify Afghanistan. No more backseat driving of the war from pesky bureaucrats in Washington, or restrictive rules of engagement imposed on soldiers. An American viceroy with a privatized fighting force would make trains run on time in Afghanistan—if they had trains.

Yemen conflict: 5,000 Pakistani troops likely to join Saudi-led coalition

Haider Ali Sindhu

RIYADH – As many as five thousand troops of Pakistan Army would likely be joining Islamic Military Alliance to help Saudi Arabia safeguard its southern region which borders Yemen, it emerged on Monday.

Although the former military head General Raheel Sharif has already departed to Saudi Arabia after securing No Objection Certificate to head the 41-nation military alliance but reports are rife that a brigade of Pak Army would now be joining the alliance.

The final decision regarding the number of soldiers and its terms of reference have not been finalised yet but it is being murmured that army chief General Qamar Bajwa in his Saudi Arabia visit decided to send the brigade in a bid to strengthen the alliance.

According to a report by Daily Khabrain, director General ISPR, Asif Ghafoor had already hinted at the possibility that Pak Army would not indulge in any battle outside the territory of Saudi Arabia.

On the other hand, renowned US daily, Wall Street Journal published an interview of Major General Ahmed Asiri, the adviser to the Saudi minister of defence, who discussed the scope of the military alliance, its structure, mission and expressed that it would be used to wipe out terrorism from Muslim world.

Pressure on Sharif to give Army free hand

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s fate is said to hang in the balance in light of the publication of the Panama papers and the legal and political processes that have been set off. In April, the Supreme Court ruled in a 3-2 judgment that the case against Mr Sharif was not conclusive and ordered a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the allegations. The JIT findings are damaging to the PM. Is Mr Sharif in serious trouble, and if so are there implications for India?

On Monday, the Pakistan Supreme Court began hearing the different parties — those seeking his resignation and those questioning the JIT findings. Due to the Army’s complete control on all other institutions in the country, questions will be asked about the genuineness of the noise raised by the Opposition parties against Mr Sharif’s continuance. For the same reason, the integrity and impartiality of Pakistan’s highest court has for many years been a subject of scrutiny.

The Army on Sunday pointedly sought to distance itself from JIT-related concerns, but few are likely to take these disavowals at face value. A member of the JIT is from the all-powerful spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s “shadow state”, and another from military intelligence. This alone raises a question mark over its findings. The most vociferous opposition to Mr Sharif’s continuance has come from Pakistan Tehreeq-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan, who has often given the impression of furthering the military’s agenda.

Back in Afghanistan Hot Spot, U.S. Marines Chase Diminished Goals

The last time American Marines were in Helmand Province, they had a sweeping mission and the resources to carry it out.

Tens of thousands of Marines flooded the southern villages here, and they had tens of millions of dollars in cash to throw into projects that would bolster local support. They spearheaded some of the bloodiest battles of this long war, losing 349 dead in the process, but they succeeded in turning much of what had been prime Taliban and opium territory over to the Afghan government.

Then, following the Obama administration’s deadline to have combat forces out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, they went home.

Now they are back in Helmand with a changed mission, looking at an overwhelmingly changed map.

Within two years, Helmand, Afganistan’s largest province, all but returned to the hands of the Taliban. Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital and a haven for tens of thousands of refugees from the fighting, has been surrounded for more than a year, and in that time has been infiltrated by insurgents at least three times. The performance of the Afghan forces, left on their own, was catastrophic, with 60 to 70 soldiers dying each week…Read on.

In Afghanistan, more is not the answer

This new briefing is based on off-the-record military interviews with both international and local Afghan troops between February and March 2017. At the time of press, NATO had just confirmed that the alliance will increase the number of troops in Afghanistan by several thousand. Our analysis supports the fact that a light-footprint approach to Afghanistan is not working. But crucially, our interviews suggest that it is not necessarily the lack of troops that is doing the most damage to chances of mission success. Instead, the main reason that the conflict in Afghanistan remains locked into a stalemate is the lack of political will to bring maximum pressure to bear on all parties to the conflict to bring them to the negotiation table.

18 July 2017

*** A corruption crisis rocks the most dangerous country in the world

Bruce Riedel

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in deep political trouble arising from a corruption scandal over his family fortune. The 67-year-old Sharif is in his third term as prime minister, having served twice in the 1990s before a decade in exile in Saudi Arabia. He has struggled to keep the army under civilian control throughout and unsuccessfully sought to reduce tensions with India. Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world, where terrorists and nuclear weapons overlap.


The corruption scandal emerged more than a year ago, when the so-called Panama Papers were leaked from an offshore law firm in Panama. Investigators found that Sharif’s family had sizable amounts of money and assets in London, including four luxury flats that allegedly had been purchased with illegal proceeds. This week, a Joint Investigation Tribunal concluded that the family had assets far beyond their income and recommended the case to Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, is accused of producing fraudulent documents as well, including one that allegedly uses a type font that was only available after the date on the document. His sons are also under a cloud of suspicion.

*** Art of the Possible Restructuring the Defense Relationship with Pakistan

By Stephen Tankel
Source Link

Pakistan is not a front-burner issue for the administration of President Donald Trump, but it remains a major contributor to the security challenges facing the United States in South Asia. This is most immediately felt in Afghanistan, where President Trump is considering sending 3,000 to 5,000 more troops on top of the almost 10,000 already there.1 There is considerable frustration with Pakistan on Capitol Hill and among career officials in the executive branch over the country’s ongoing support for various militant groups, including the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, and production of tactical nuclear weapons.2 Members of Congress and committee staff are thinking through how to reform the U.S.-Pakistan defense relationship. Several prescriptive reports and articles, including one by the author, have argued the United States should consider a tougher line with Pakistan.3

There are no silver bullets when it comes to Pakistan, whose behavior has implications for the United States beyond Afghanistan. Rather than attempt to alter Pakistan’s behavior radically in the near term – something that has proven impossible, thus far – the aim should be to optimize the rate of return on the relationship while avoiding a rupture. This report seeks to inform the debate over Pakistan in two ways. First, instead of advocating the current practice of putting unrealistic conditions on large assistance packages, this report posits a more focused and realistic policy of positive conditionality. It also discusses how changes in assistance could be paired with escalatory coercion. Second, discussions about Pakistan often revolve around how hard and on which issues to push without delving into the actual policy reforms necessary to implement changes. This report broadly outlines how the legislative and executive branches could implement recommended policy changes. 

What Trump's Afghanistan Policy Means for India

By Sourina Bej

The Trump administration seems to expect more Indian involvement in Afghanistan. Is that wise? 

Beyond the friendly diktats and signature hugs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Unites States on June 25 and 26 had some overlooked signals on the future of Afghanistan policy. With the United States still mulling over its new direction, India has much to consider when it comes to President Donald Trump’s Af-Pak policy.

The joint statement concluded during Modi’s visit emphasized the need for development in Afghanistan and was appreciative of Indian efforts in this regard. The statement also announced that Washington would co-sponsor the India-Afghanistan Export, Trade and Investment Fair in September 2017. Yet Trump has also indicated such support that would require considerable participation from India in bringing what the statement called “increased stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.”

Is India ready for deep security engagement in Afghanistan? Will this be required as Trump’s Af-Pak policy is unveiled?

Dictatorship and Democracy in Israel and Pakistan

Pranay Kotasthane

Israel was the talk of the Indian towns last week. For the first time, an Indian Prime Minister paid a visit to Israel. This, after India recognised Israel in 1950 and accorded the ties full diplomatic status in 1992.

Obviously, the talk about Israel occupied Facebook walls as well. In one such interesting conversation, a few learned folks were discussing this: the two religious States — Israel and Pakistan—were both created for the explicit purpose of securing a homeland for religious minorities. Given their preoccupation with security, the military-security establishment occupied a key position in the politics of the two States. Yet, what can explain this fundamental difference: while Pakistan has had several bouts of rule by military dictatorship, Israel has steadfastly retained electoral democracy?

This is an interesting question. Now, the similarities between Israel and Pakistan are well documented. Faisal Devji’s 2013 book Muslim Zion argues that

Like Israel, Pakistan came into being through the migration of a minority population, inhabiting a vast subcontinent, who abandoned old lands in which they feared persecution to settle in a new homeland. Just as Israel is the world’s sole Jewish state, Pakistan is the only country to be established in the name of Islam.

17 July 2017

In Pakistan, a Probe and a Power Play

Cyril Almeida

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — On June 24, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan held an angry, defiant news conference in London. A day earlier, militants had killed dozens of people in a double bombing in a Shia enclave in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Yet standing outside a posh Park Lane apartment building, the prime minister railed instead against a controversial investigation into his family’s wealth.

It was the prime minister’s first news conference since appearing before investigators nine days earlier, and neither the celebratory mood of an Eid weekend — Mr. Sharif was in London for a family holiday — nor the somber aftermath of the devastating bombings could shake his political focus.

Mr. Sharif denounced the corruption probe as a witch hunt. He assailed his fiercest rival, the opposition politician Imran Khan, for ceaselessly attacking him. And in the elliptical way many Pakistani politicians learn to master, he hinted that the military was trying to destabilize his government.

He said all this while standing outside the very source of his troubles, the Sharif family pied-à-terre in the Park Lane apartment building, near the iconic Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. In the family’s use for more than three decades, the “London apartments,” as they have come to be known in Pakistan, have been denounced for decades by Mr. Sharif’s opponents as the fruits of corruption.

16 July 2017

Kabul's Dostum Problem

By Catherine Putz

Whether Dostum is convicted or not, there will be anger and accusations that the rule of law has been cheated. 

Afghanistan’s First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum left the country in mid-May, ostensibly for medical treatment in Turkey. But there was another reason Dostum didn’t want to be in Afghanistan. Ahmad Ishchi, the former governor of Jowzjan and often described as Dostum’s political rival, accused the vice president of kidnapping, torture, and rape in December 2016, after Ishchi was reportedly beaten up and detained by Dostum and his men at a buzkashi match.

The bizarre incident, spurned on by Ishchi’s very public accusations and Dostum’s warlord reputation, led to domestic and international calls for a thorough investigation. In Kabul’s desperate search for even the semblance of rule of law, the government promised to deliver.

One Afghan MP, Abdul Raouf Enami, put the issue’s importance well back in December: “This is a sensitive issue and it is better for both sides that the issue should be probed by judicial centers without any interference… The allegations made against Dostum bring Afghanistan’s reputation into question. If these are wrong, Dostum’s reputation should be restored but if they proven to be true, government’s legitimacy will decrease.”

Pakistan Silences Its Critics

By Umer Ali

Criticizing the military, in print or social media, is increasingly dangerous in Pakistan. 

In May 2017, an officer from the counterterrorism department of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) called Taha Siddiqui – a journalist working with foreign media outlets – asking him to appear for an interrogation over his social media activity.

Siddiqui, refusing to appear, filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court, accusing the FIA of harassing him. Explaining the reason behind his reluctance to appear, Siddiqui wrote in the petition: “…there have been several reports in the press where such phone calls are made and once the person who is to be interrogated sets out to the FIA Headquarters, he is either picked up and disappeared or detained illegally.”

The court sought a response from the FIA, and directed its officials to stop harassing the journalist. Siddiqui’s counsel, Asma Jahangir, a renowned lawyer and activist, accused the FIA of treating her client as a terrorist, not a journalist. Siddiqui’s case has now been transferred to the cyber crime unit of the FIA.

'Land, kill and leave': How Australian special forces helped lose the war in Afghanistan

By C August Elliott

A blow has been dealt to the prestige of Australia's special forces with in-kind damages likely to follow for the reputation of the Australian Army as a whole.

At first, it might seem tempting to think of these kinds of events as isolated incidents that do not speak to a more widespread problem within the Army's special operations community. But misconduct on the battlefield also speaks to a wayward shift in a military force's broader operating culture.

Along with the Maywand District murders and the Panjywai massacre, what these new allegations levelled against Australian soldiers in Uruzgan will come to symbolise is the ultimate failure of Western militaries to adapt to a fight where the decisive battle was the human terrain.

Clear mission to protect the people

According to our military leaders, the reason for Australia's presence in Uruzgan province between 2001 and 2014 was to "clear, hold and build" a Taliban-free Afghanistan. Per counterinsurgency doctrine, by providing an enduring sense of physical security to local Afghans, the "hearts and minds" as well as the rifles and trigger-fingers of fighting-aged males in Uruzgan would eventually be won over.

15 July 2017

With More Troops in Afghanistan, Focus on Reintegration, Not Reconciliation

Marvin G. Weinbaum, Moh. Sayed Madadi
Had the Taliban wanted a share of power, its leaders would have come to the table long ago.

As the United States searches for a strategy in Afghanistan, a near consensus exists that military power alone cannot defeat the Taliban, making a political resolution of the conflict both necessary and inevitable. It is important to deploy more troops to the country, not because that action will force the Taliban to eventually reconcile in a power-sharing arrangement, but because it buys time for the reintegration process to yield threads of success. Theoretically, reintegration will allow for Afghanistan to gradually wean off the Taliban’s mid-level commanders in the leadership council from the Taliban’s hardcore ideologues, which would then make it possible for the country avoid negotiating a political settlement with the terror group.

The Taliban senior leadership remains dedicated to realizing an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan. Although that ideology has evolved over time, it would be unwise to expect the Taliban to compete in democratic elections, take cabinet positions, and respect the rights of minorities and free media. Therefore, a negotiated agreement that incorporates more Islamic values within the country’s constitutional democratic framework—which also somehow preserves most of Afghanistan’s social and economic gains since 2001—is unlikely. The Taliban don’t just seek to gain control over the political system, they want change it. Had the group simply wanted a share of power, then its leaders would have come to the table long ago. The movement’s ascendant ideologues reject popular legitimacy and democratic accountability, viewing them as placing the will of the people above that of God. Even the Taliban’s so-called pragmatists—those possibly prepared to entertain a political outcome—seem unwilling to compromise on core principles.

Islamic State Fights the Taliban, Afghan Government-backed Locals in Tora Bora Mountains

By Thomas Joscelyn

The Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan (or Khorasan province) has released a new set of photos documenting its battles against the Taliban in the Tora Bora Mountains and the nearby area. The region garnered worldwide attention in late 2001, after Osama bin Laden and many of his men retreated to an al Qaeda base in the mountains. It could have been bin Laden’s last stand, but the al Qaeda founder escaped and continued to manage an international network of subordinates until early May 2011, when he was finally killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

In June, press reports indicated that Wilayah Khorasan had captured bin Laden’s cave complex in Tora Bora from the Taliban. It was a supposedly high-profile win for Baghdadi’s men at a time when they are losing ground in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. CBS News cited a broadcast in Pashto on the so-called caliphate’s local radio station, which trumpeted the territorial gain.

In mid-June, the Islamic State’s Naba magazine also carried an article on the campaign. Naba claimed that Wilayah Khorasan’s members sought to dispel any misgivings about their intentions after the Taliban had previously warned people in the area about the self-declared caliphate.

The Afghan War Is Not Lost

Michèle Flournoy, Richard Fontaine

Trump should explain the theory of success, the stakes and why, after all these years, America’s longest war must persist.

Sixteen years after the United States first sent troops to Afghanistan, U.S. military commanders describe the war there as stalemated. The Trump administration has initiated a major strategy review, and the Pentagon reportedly seeks to add several thousand American troops to the 8,400 already in Afghanistan. More troops can help achieve American objectives in Afghanistan, but only if they are part of a larger and more effective strategy. That will require a change of course.

The current approach is plainly inadequate. Although more Afghan forces are trained and in the fight than ever before, the Taliban today controls more territory than at any time since 9/11. Faced with corruption and exclusionary politics, popular opposition to the government in Kabul is rising, while the Taliban makes inroads in rural areas and, increasingly, near the cities. According to the U.S. government, some twenty insurgent or terrorist groups now operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater, including ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Haqqanis—the world’s highest concentration of extremist networks.

The primary objective of U.S. strategy has been preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven from which terrorists could launch attacks against the United States and its allies. As the Taliban and other extremist groups have regained strength, U.S. focus has been to prevent the collapse of the central government while continuing counterterrorism operations. In practice, this has involved training and advising Afghan security forces, coupled with air attacks on Taliban forces and direct action against terrorist networks.

14 July 2017

I've Worked with Refugees for Decades. Europe's Afghan Crime Wave Is Mind-Boggling.

Cheryl Benard

Afghans stand out among the refugees committing crimes in Austria and elsewhere. Why?

In 2014, when waves of refugees began flooding into western Europe, citizens and officials alike responded with generosity and openness. Exhausted refugees spilled out of trains and buses to be met by crowds bearing gifts of clothing and food, and holding up placards that read “Welcome Refugees.”

This was a honeymoon that could not last. Some of the upcoming difficulties had been anticipated: that the newcomers did not speak the local languages, might be traumatized, would probably take a long time to find their footing, and had brought their ethnic, religious and sectarian conflicts with them, causing them to get into battles with each other. All of these things happened but—as Angela Merkel promised—were manageable. “Wir schaffen das.”

But there was one development that had not been expected, and was not tolerable: the large and growing incidence of sexual assaults committed by refugees against local women. These were not of the cultural-misunderstanding-date-rape sort, but were vicious, no-preamble attacks on random girls and women, often committed by gangs or packs of young men. At first, the incidents were downplayed or hushed up—no one wanted to provide the right wing with fodder for nationalist agitation, and the hope was that these were isolated instances caused by a small problem group of outliers. As the incidents increased, and because many of them took place in public or because the public became involved either in stopping the attack or in aiding the victim afterwards, and because the courts began issuing sentences as the cases came to trial, the matter could no longer be swept under the carpet of political correctness. And with the official acknowledgment and public reporting, a weird and puzzling footnote emerged. Most of the assaults were being committed by refugees of one particular nationality: by Afghans.