AFGHANISTAN VS. PAKISTAN & THE THREAT OF ISLAMIC EXTREMISM

The Dilemma of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: Muhammad Akbar Notezai, The Diplomat, Aug. 12, 2016— Speaking earlier this year at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on “Continuing Search for Stability: Pakistan and Afghanistan,” noted Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid was quoted as saying by Dawn that Pakistan has made two “grievous mistakes” in its foreign policy.

Pakistan: The Rebirth of Jihad: Umer Ali, The Diplomat, Aug. 18, 2016— “Bharat ka aik ailaaj, al-jihad” (“The cure to India is nothing but jihad”), the crowd chanted at the start of Jamaat-e-Islami’s anti-India rally near Nasir Bagh, Lahore. The rally, which was destined for Wahga, on Pakistan’s side of the India-Pakistan border, was filled with a mix of emotions – anger, frustration, and hatred.

Afghanistan Is Finally Standing Up to Pakistan: Adam Gallagher, The National Interest, Aug. 4, 2016— As the first president of Afghanistan following the toppling of the Taliban, Hamid Karzai’s legacy will always be decidedly mixed. The famously mercurial Karzai masterfully navigated the traditional tribal politics of Afghanistan, but arguably laid the groundwork for much of the corruption and weak governance that plague the Afghan government today.

Afghanistan Still Hasn’t Recovered from the Soviet Invasion: Shawn Snow, The National Interest, Jul. 31, 2016— In mid-July, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford relayed to the media cautious optimism regarding the war effort in Afghanistan. Afghan security forces—reeling from a bloody 2015 fighting season, which witnessed the first collapse of a major population center since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001—appear to be making slow and steady progress on the battlefield, a rare piece of positive news emanating from the war-torn region.

 

On Topic Links

 

Over A Hundred US Troops Sent to Lashkar Gah to Battle Taliban: Sune Engel Rasmussen, The Guardian, Aug. 22, 2016

State Dept. Approves $60 Million Arms Sale to Afghanistan: Geoff Ziezulewicz, United Press International, Aug. 22, 2016

Pakistan's Hindus Protest Forced Conversions of Girls to Islam: Ayesha Tanzeem, Voice of America, August 11, 2016

Israel, Pakistan, UAE Join US Air Force Exercise: Yonah Jeremy Bob, The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 16, 2016

 

 

THE DILEMMA OF PAKISTAN’S FOREIGN POLICY

Muhammad Akbar Notezai             

          The Diplomat, Aug. 12, 2016

 

 

Speaking earlier this year at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on “Continuing Search for Stability: Pakistan and Afghanistan,” noted Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid was quoted as saying by Dawn that Pakistan has made two “grievous mistakes” in its foreign policy. The first came at the end of the Cold War, he said, when Pakistan decided to “move proxy resources to Kashmir,” radicalizing the Kashmiri nationalist movement.”

 

The second major error, according to Rashid, came in 2003 when General Pervez Musharraf decided to resurrect the Afghan Taliban. This proved a shot in the arm for the Pakistani Taliban, and within several years local militants in Pakistan were “calling for the overthrow of the Pakistani state.” Increasingly, Pakistan was being accused by neighboring countries of providing safe sanctuaries for militants on Pakistani soil.

 

In the wake of the Taliban’s assault on Peshawar’s Army Public School at the end of 2014, it was widely believed that both the civil and military leaderships of Pakistan were keen to improve bilateral relations with its neighbors. The army launched a robust crackdown on militant groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and elsewhere in the country. As a result, complaints from Pakistan’s neighbors eased, even if they didn’t quite disappear entirely.

 

Meanwhile, Pakistan stayed out of the Yemen conflict, instead declaring that it would remain neutral. Then, in December last year, Islamabad surprised many observers when it announced that it opposed any attempt to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime. Speaking with the media, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said, “Pakistan is also against foreign military intervention in Syria and fully supports the territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

 

These major developments have increasingly irked Saudi Arabia, which has at any rate been tilting toward Pakistan’s arch-rival India. But some independent analysts argued that Pakistan’s foreign policy was now changing for the better. They claimed that the country has now realized it can no longer use militant groups as an “extension of its national security policy.”

 

Unfortunately, the turnaround proved short-lived; militancy has once again strained the country’s ties with India and Afghanistan following tragic incidents in both countries, for which Pakistan was blamed. Ironically, Saudi Arabia, which has its own links to jihad, also raised doubts about Pakistan, with the Saudi Interior Ministry identifying the Jeddah bomber as Pakistani national Abdullah Qlazar Khan.

 

For their part, Pakistani authorities vigorously deny any connection to the attacks, and insist that their soil is not being used against other countries. They cite the Pathankot attack, noting that the director general of India’s National Investigation Agency, Sharad Kumar himself said that there was no evidence to suggest that the Pakistani government was involved.

 

Still, in recent months, Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif has spoken on television of his regret that relations with the U.S. are deteriorating, while criticizing Pakistan’s entry into the war of Afghanistan in 1979 to oust the Soviet Union and its nurturing of terrorists after 9/11, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan.

 

Washington, D.C.-based political analyst and author Aparna Pande told The Diplomat: “There are two underlying principles of Pakistan’s foreign policy and these principles have remained paramount right from the creation of the country till today. The first is the desire to ‘escape India’ in the sense of creating a national identity that was anti-India. Thus, Pakistan has preferred to be referred to as a Greater Middle Eastern country not a South Asian one, because South Asian would mean accepting that Pakistan was part of the greater Indian civilization. The second principle underlying Pakistan’s policy is the desire for parity with India – not sovereign equality which every country has but parity – and this is specifically with respect to military parity (both conventional and nuclear) and economic parity.”

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 Contents                                                                                                                               

PAKISTAN: THE REBIRTH OF JIHAD

Umer Ali

The Diplomat, Aug. 18, 2016

 

“Bharat ka aik ailaaj, al-jihad” (“The cure to India is nothing but jihad”), the crowd chanted at the start of Jamaat-e-Islami’s anti-India rally near Nasir Bagh, Lahore. The rally, which was destined for Wahga, on Pakistan’s side of the India-Pakistan border, was filled with a mix of emotions – anger, frustration, and hatred. It was attended by Jamaat-e-Islami’s top leadership, including its chief, Siraj-ul-Haq. Accompanying him was Hizbul Mujahideen’s chief, Syed Salahuddin.

 

Earlier in the day, vehicles full of Jamaat-e-Islami and Hizbul Mujahideen volunteers, announcing the rally and singing jihadi tarana, roamed freely around Lahore. Even before the rally, which was scheduled for July 31, camps set up by Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Hizbul Mujahideen could be seen outside the Punjab Assembly building on the Mall Road in Lahore. With full Islamic zeal and zest, the people at these camps chanted pro-Kashmir slogans, encouraging the common citizens to take arms against India.

 

This was only one of the many rallies and processions organized by Islamist groups in the past few weeks.

It all started after Indian forces in Kashmir killed the young militant separatist Burhan Wani. Wani, who belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen, was known for his tech-savvy methods, through which he preached jihad to the people of the valley. He gathered a huge following on social media platforms through his videos – one of the reasons his death sparked sudden outrage across the valley. According to media reports, around 50,000 Kashmiris attended his funeral prayers.

 

Following his funeral, Kashmir saw a series of clashes between the Kashmiri population and Indian forces. Around 62 people have been killed so far, with hundreds more injured. A curfew was imposed, mobile and internet services were jammed, and for a few days, most of the Kashmiri papers were forcefully stopped from being published. This renewed anti-India movement in Kashmir is often described as an indigenous movement, not sponsored by Pakistan. Burhan Wani is said to be the product of the very same movement. However, with Pakistan declaring him a martyr and Syed Salahuddin, head of Hizbul Mujahideen, holding rallies in Pakistan, a few eyebrows have been raised.

Former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani says, “Every time there is unrest in the Kashmir valley, hopes are raised in Pakistan that the solution of the Kashmir issue is near and the jihadists become active.” Emphasizing the attempted hijacking of the Kashmiris’ struggle, he adds, “If anything, jihadi activism delegitimizes the demands of the Kashmiri people in international eyes. Unfortunately, the jihadists and their backers in Pakistan do not see the folly or failure of their policies.”

 

As the renewed protests in Kashmir erupted, it appeared to be a rebirth of jihadi organizations’ activities in Pakistan as well.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa was the first one to take the lead with its “Azadi Caravan.” Setting out from from Lahore on July 19, the caravan was destined to arrive in Islamabad on July 20. Stretching for several kilometers, the caravan consisted of buses, trucks, and cars. As the caravan traveled on the Grand Trunk road, it was received warmly in cities on the way, as participants kept joining the ranks. Buzzing with slogans like “Bharat ki barbadi tak, jang jaari rahay gi” (“The war will continue until India is destroyed”) …

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]            

                                                    

Contents                                                                                                                                           AFGHANISTAN IS FINALLY STANDING UP TO PAKISTAN        

                                                Adam Gallagher

The National Interest, Aug. 4, 2016

 

As the first president of Afghanistan following the toppling of the Taliban, Hamid Karzai’s legacy will always be decidedly mixed. The famously mercurial Karzai masterfully navigated the traditional tribal politics of Afghanistan, but arguably laid the groundwork for much of the corruption and weak governance that plague the Afghan government today. During his tenure, Karzai often made headlines by frequently excoriating Pakistan for harboring the Afghan Taliban and attempting to rule Kabul by proxy. When Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official and development specialist, came to power in 2014, he attempted to reset relations with Islamabad—even shelving a request for military assistance from India, Pakistan’s principal rival. It did not take him long to reconsider.

 

Less than a year into his tenure, Ghani reversed course, saying he believed Pakistan was conducting “undeclared war” on Afghanistan. Following a Taliban bombing that killed more than sixty people in Kabul in April, Ghani blasted Pakistan for providing sanctuary to the group and told the Afghan parliament he would complain to the United Nations Security Council if Islamabad failed to take action. “We don’t expect Pakistan to bring the Taliban to talks, but we ask the Pakistanis to fulfill the promises they made . . . and launch operations against the people who have sanctuaries in Pakistan,” he said. Ghani’s frustration with Pakistan’s lack of action has surely been stoked by the fact that since the U.S. military drawdown at the end of 2014, the Taliban surged, now controlling more territory in the country than at any time since the 2001 invasion, and civilian casualties continue to rise at alarming rates.

 

Back in May, when the late Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was killed by a U.S. drone strike, he was driving through the Baluchistan—a western Pakistani province bordering Iran—with a Pakistani passport. It is widely known that Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, is home to the Quetta Shura, the leadership of the Afghan Taliban. There have been other prominent examples demonstrating that Taliban leaders have been operating in Pakistan. When Afghan officials met with Taliban delegates at the Pakistani resort of Murree in July 2015, it was widely known that they were traveling from within the country. Last year, the Afghan government revealed that the Taliban’s late leader, Mullah Omar, died in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan in 2013. And if anyone questions the ability and willingness of the Pakistani intelligence services and military to aid and abet extremists, let’s not forget that Osama bin Laden was eventually found in Abbottabad, Pakistan, close to a military compound.

 

While Islamabad has long denied that it harbors and supports insurgent groups, a 2010 report by Matthew Waldman for the London School of Economics revealed more than just furtive cooperation. Indeed, “This goes far beyond just limited, or occasional support. This is very significant levels of support being provided by the ISI [Pakistan’s intelligence agency]. We're also saying this is official policy of that agency, and we're saying that it is very extensive,” Waldman said.

 

But the reality is that this support is an open secret. In a candid admission this March, Sartaj Aziz, a foreign policy adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister, told a crowd at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, “We have some influence on them [the Afghan Taliban] because their leadership is in Pakistan and they get some medical facilities, their families are here.”

Meanwhile this year, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (composed of Pakistan, the United States, Afghanistan and China) has failed to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table during several rounds of…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    

 

Contents                                   

             

AFGHANISTAN STILL HASN’T RECOVERED FROM THE SOVIET INVASION

Shawn Snow                                   

The National Interest, Jul. 31, 2016

 

In mid-July, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford relayed to the media cautious optimism regarding the war effort in Afghanistan. Afghan security forces—reeling from a bloody 2015 fighting season, which witnessed the first collapse of a major population center since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001—appear to be making slow and steady progress on the battlefield, a rare piece of positive news emanating from the war-torn region.

 

A multitude of factors are showing encouraging signs for the fledgling Afghan military. Afghan security forces are applying lessons learned to last year’s harrowing fighting season by reducing static checkpoints and pushing for more offensive operations. Prioritizing strategic terrain and pulling back forces from less populated regions, such as the withdrawal from Nowzad, has ushered in new offensive capabilities and strengths for Afghan security forces.

 

New technologies, to include a fixed-wing close air support platform—the A-29 Super Tucano—and the employment of surveillance drones, has bolstered the capabilities of Afghan forces and improved morale of fighting forces on the ground. President Obama approved new rules of engagement for U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan under the train, advise and assist Resolute Support mission, to assist their fellow host-nation forces in targeting the Taliban.

 

All of these steady improvements appear to be showing signs of relative success, as the number of attacks in the country has decreased and Afghan forces continue to conduct offensive combat operations to root out the Taliban.

 

Though the tactical improvements on the ground should be praised, they underscore a major issue regarding coverage of the conflict in Afghanistan: our nearsighted focus on military operations, and not on the political developments that are necessary for lasting peace and stability in the region. After fifteen years of war, the major social, economic and political dynamics that exacerbate tensions in the mountainous country are still very much prevalent in the country, and risk a relapse into the chaotic period that preceded the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

 

Despite rhetoric emanating from the twenty-four-hour media cycle, the basic fundamentals of Afghanistan’s conflict have changed little since the rise of the Taliban in 1994. After the Soviet Union’s withdrawal in 1989 and the ending of financial assistance in 1992, Afghanistan descended into financial oblivion. The very foundation of Afghanistan’s economic system and livelihood prior to the Soviet Union’s intervention was primarily dependent on muscle labor and rural subsistence farming. The subsequent invasion wrecked a system of living that had endured for centuries, and was replaced with a war economy dependent on foreign aid, monetization and the displacement of rural societies into urban environments—groups that would eventually become dependent on state assistance and welfare.

The destruction of Afghanistan’s social fabric during the Soviet occupation, and the displacement of rural societies, would eventually breed resentment and fundamentalist groups throughout the country. The 1992 ending of financial aid was the culminating spark that would light the fire that gave rise to the Taliban …

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents                                                                                                                                                           

           

On Topic Links

 

Over A Hundred US Troops Sent to Lashkar Gah to Battle Taliban: Sune Engel Rasmussen, The Guardian, Aug. 22, 2016— More than a hundred US troops have been sent to Lashkar Gah to help prevent the Taliban from overrunning the capital of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, in what is thought to be the first US deployment to the embattled city since foreign troops withdrew in 2014.

State Dept. Approves $60 Million Arms Sale to Afghanistan: Geoff Ziezulewicz, UPI, Aug. 22, 2016— The U.S. State Department has approved a proposed $60 million sale to Afghanistan for a variety of weapons and equipment. Required notification was delivered to Congress Wednesday, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, said in a statement.

Pakistan's Hindus Protest Forced Conversions of Girls to Islam: Ayesha Tanzeem, VOA, August 11, 2016—Human rights activists joined a call by some members of Pakistan's Hindu community to protest alleged forced conversions of Hindu girls to Islam on Thursday, officially deemed National Minorities Day in Pakistan. The call for protest in various Pakistani cities — as well as abroad in Toronto, New York and Houston —singled out an individual famously known by the alias Mian Mithu as the prime culprit for the alleged conversions.

Israel, Pakistan, UAE Join US Air Force Exercise: Yonah Jeremy Bob, The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 16, 2016— Israel, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates began joint military exercises on Monday as part of the US Air Force’s elite Red Flag drill at Nellis Air Force Base in the Nevada desert. Countries without diplomatic relations are rarely seen in joint military exercises, but few nations would be likely to allow such concerns cause them to miss an opportunity to work with the US Air Force.