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President Trump's Afghanistan Strategy: Fighting To Win: Lloyd Billingsley, Frontpage, Aug. 22, 2017 — Before President Donald Trump’s speech Monday the establishment media were telling anybody who would listen that the president would be committing 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

What's Next in Afghanistan?: John R. Bolton, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 15, 2017— As President Trump wrestles with America's role in Afghanistan, he should first decide what our objectives are today compared to what we wanted immediately after Sept. 11, 2001.

Afghanistan is Fracturing, Creating a Vacuum that Russia and Iran are Filling: Terry Glavin, National Post, Aug. 9, 2017 — It’s a bitter pill that Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities find themselves increasingly obliged to swallow…

Pakistan, a Nation of Never-Ending Turmoil: Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, Aug. 1, 2017— Friday in Pakistan is considered a holy day, but there was nothing holy about the military-judicial coup of Friday, July 28.


On Topic Links


Trump’s ‘Principled Realism’ Call on Afghanistan: Editorial, New York Post, Aug. 21, 2017

America's 16 Years in Afghanistan: From Triumph to Stalemate: National Post, Aug. 22, 2017

Transgender Pakistanis Win Legal Victories, but Violence Goes On: Mehreen Zahra-Malikaug, New York Times, Aug. 19, 2017

India Is Still Haunted By the Aftershocks of Partition: Michael Kugelman, National Interest, Aug. 20, 2017




Lloyd Billingsley

Frontpage, Aug. 22, 2017


Before President Donald Trump’s speech Monday the establishment media were telling anybody who would listen that the president would be committing 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. That turned out to be fake news but the president left no doubt on his strategy.


Speaking from Fort Myer, Virginia, the president thanked “every member of the U.S. military,” for their service. The special class of heroes, unmatched in human history, “deserve to return to a country not at war with itself.” He held up the U.S. military, composed of all races, colors and creeds, as an example for the nation, sacrificing together in perfect cohesion, bound together by one shared mission.


“Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another,” President Trump said. “There is no room for prejudice, bigotry and no tolerance for hate.” Returning troops, need to “find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty.” His purpose was to ensure that horrors on the scale of 9/11 are “not repeated on our shores” but the American people are “weary of war without victory,” in the “longest war in American history.” His original instinct, the president said, was to “pull out,” but from the desk in the Oval Office he realized that “the consequences of rapid exit are predictable and unacceptable.”


The September 11, 2001 attack had been “planned and directed from Afghanistan” and hasty withdrawal would “create a vacuum,” as in Iraq, when hard-won gains “slipped back into the hands of terrorists” and gave a safe haven for ISIS. This, the president said, should not be repeated. The security threats are “immense,” the president said, because twenty terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the highest number anywhere in world. Pakistan “gives safe have to terrorists” and that was a “challenging and troubling situation.”


Trump said terrorists were “nothing but thugs, criminals, predators and that’s right, losers,” and the object of his policy was to strip them of their territory.  The president cited the “vile, vicious attack in Barcelona” as evidence that terrorists “would stop at nothing to commit mass murder” of innocent men women and children.”  The president spoke of breaking terrorists’ will, keeping them from crossing our borders, and prevent them from acquiring nuclear materials. “We will defeat them,” the president said, and the nation would “learn from history.”


“Conditions on the ground will guide our strategies,” President Trump said. “Enemies must not know our plans.” Accordingly, the president did not talk about numbers of troops he might send. On the other hand, he did say that “attack we will,” directing “all instruments of American power” toward a successful outcome. The United States would continue support for the Afghan government, but “we are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.” The president made it clear that the United States would no longer be silent over Pakistan’s “safe havens” for terrorists, the same organizations that “attack our people.” 


Pakistan, the president said, has “much to gain” for partnering with the United States and “much to lose by harboring criminals and terrorists.” So it was “time for Pakistan to demonstrate commitment.” Likewise, Pakistan’s rival India “makes billions in trade” with the United States and “we want help,” the president said, with the war in Afghanistan. There American forces “will have necessary tools of engagement” and the president would lift “restrictions against waging battles against the enemy.” The president said he would expand battlefield commanders’ authority to target criminal networks.


“These killers need to know they have no place to hide,” President Trump said. “Retribution will be swift and powerful.” The nation would deploy “swift decisive and overwhelming force,” and “fight to win.”  America’s allies needed to help with this strategy, devoting “much more money” to the collective defense. For the Afghans, economic development would help defray costs but the president made it clear that “our commitment is not unlimited” and our support “is not a blank check.”


The American interest was “protecting American lives and American interests,” the president said. “We know who we are and what we are fighting for.” He warned terrorists that “America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat. We have faced down evil and we have always prevailed.” For America, the president sought “an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that was paid,” by the men and women of the armed forces…

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




John R. Bolton

Gatestone Institute, Aug. 15, 2017


As President Trump wrestles with America's role in Afghanistan, he should first decide what our objectives are today compared to what we wanted immediately after Sept. 11, 2001. Initially, the United States overthrew the Taliban regime but failed to destroy it completely. Regime supporters, allied tribal forces and opportunistic warlords escaped (or returned) to Pakistan's frontier regions to establish sanctuaries. Similarly, while the Taliban's ouster also forced al-Qaida into exile in Pakistan and elsewhere, al-Qaida nonetheless continued and expanded its terrorist activities. In Iraq and Syria, al-Qaida morphed into the even more virulent ISIS, which is now gaining strength in Afghanistan.


In short, America's Afghan victories were significant but incomplete. Subsequently, we failed to revise and update our Afghan strategic objectives, leading many to argue the war had gone on too long and we should withdraw. This criticism is superficially appealing, recalling anti-Vietnam War activist Allard Lowenstein's cutting remarks about Richard Nixon's policies. While Lowenstein acknowledged that he understood those, like Sen. George Aiken, who said we should "win and get out," he said he couldn't understand Nixon's strategy of "lose and stay in."


Today in Afghanistan, the pertinent question is what we seek to prevent, not what we seek to achieve. Making Afghanistan serene and peaceful does not constitute a legitimate American geopolitical interest. Instead, we face two principal threats. First, the Taliban's return to power throughout Afghanistan would re-create the prospect of the country being used as a base of operations for international terrorism. It is simply unacceptable to allow the pre-2001 status quo to re-emerge.


Second, a post-9/11 goal (at least one better understood today) is the imperative of preventing a Taliban victory in Afghanistan that would enable Pakistani Taliban or other terrorist groups to seize control in Islamabad. Not only would such a takeover make all Pakistan yet another terrorist sanctuary, but if its large nuclear arsenal fell to terrorists, we would immediately face the equivalent of Iran and North Korea on nuclear steroids. Worryingly, Pakistan's military, especially its intelligence arm, is already thought to be controlled by radical Islamists.


Given terrorism's global spread since 9/11 and the risk of a perfect storm — the confluence of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction — the continuing threats we face in the Afghan arena are even graver than those posed pre-9/11. Accordingly, abandoning the field in Afghanistan is simply not a tenable strategy. However, accomplishing America's goals does not require remaking Afghanistan's government, economy or military in our image. Believing that only "nation building" in Afghanistan could ultimately guard against the terrorist threat was mistaken. For too long, it distracted Washington and materially contributed to the decline in American public support for a continuing military presence there, despite the manifest need for it.


There is no chance that the Trump administration will pursue "nation building" in Afghanistan, as the president has repeatedly made clear. Speaking as a Reagan administration alumnus of USAID, I concur. We should certainly continue bilateral economic assistance to Afghanistan, which, strategically applied, has served America well in countless circumstances during the Cold War and thereafter. But we should not conflate it with the diaphanous prospect of nation building.


Nor should we assume that the military component in Afghanistan must be a repetition or expansion of the boots-on-the-ground approach we have followed since the initial assault on the Taliban. Other alternatives appear available and should be seriously considered, including possibly larger U.S. military commitments of the right sort.


Even more important, there must be far greater focus on Pakistan. Politically unstable since British India's 1947 partition, increasingly under Chinese influence because of the hostility with India, and a nuclear-weapons state, Pakistan is a volatile and lethal mix ultimately more important than Afghanistan itself. Until and unless Pakistan becomes convinced that interfering in Afghanistan is too dangerous and too costly, no realistic U.S. military scenario in Afghanistan can succeed.


The stakes are high on the subcontinent, not just because of the "Af-Pak" problems but because Pakistan, India and China are all nuclear powers. The Trump administration should not be mesmerized only by U.S. troop levels. It must concentrate urgently on the bigger strategic picture. The size and nature of America's military commitment in Afghanistan will more likely emerge from that analysis rather than the other way around. And time is growing short.            




VACUUM THAT RUSSIA AND IRAN ARE FILLING                                                                  

Terry Glavin      

           National Post, Aug. 9, 2017


It’s a bitter pill that Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities find themselves increasingly obliged to swallow: marginalization from the political mainstream and an upswing in suicide-bomb atrocities and massacres that the Pashtun-dominated government in Kabul stands accused of either ignoring or addressing with a mix of indifference and incompetence.


The latest outrage occurred last weekend in Mirza Oleng, a remote, mostly-Hazara town in the mountainous northern province of Sar-e-Pol. After weeks of begging Kabul to send help – several nearby villages had been overrun by the Taliban — Mirza Oleng was assaulted by gangs of heavily-armed men carrying the Taliban flag as well as the flag of the Islamic State’s “Khorasan” wing. At least 50 townspeople were slaughtered — men, women and children. Some were shot. Others were beheaded or thrown off cliffs.


Afghanistan’s Hazaras have long been subjected to discrimination, pogroms and periodic outbreaks of genocidal violence, most viciously during the five years of Taliban rule that ended in 2001. But even with the presidential election that brought the cosmopolitan and forward-thinking Ashraf Ghani to power in 2014, Afghanistan’s minorities are chafing against what Ghani’s critics call his “Pashtunization” of power. Ghani’s government is fast losing favour with the concerns of the country’s minority Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Aimaqs, Turkmen and Baloch, who together comprise about 60 per cent of the Afghan population.


Like every Afghan leader over the past two centuries, Ghani is a Pashtun — the ethnic bloc that has produced everything from enlightened monarchs and quick-witted statesmen to the murderous pro-Soviet thug regime of the late 1970s to the leadership of the Taliban and its allied Haqqani network in Pakistan. And now, with the rapid drawdown of US and NATO forces since 2014 and the resulting upswing in Islamist terrorism, Afghanistan is on the brink of a return to the post-Soviet ethnic warlordism of the 1990s’ civil war years. It hasn’t helped that the U.S.-led NATO policy during the Obama years was to peg military and reconstruction aid on the Afghan government’s commitment to “reconciliation” with the most brutal enemies of the Afghan people, including the Taliban.


A shudder of fear swept through Afghanistan’s minorities last September when the mass murderer terrorist leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, after 15 years in hiding, was absolved of his war crimes from the 1990s and welcomed back to Kabul in a “peace talks” deal. The Hekmatyar arrangement followed a horrific suicide-bomb attack in Kabul that killed about 100 Hazaras at a peaceful protest against the Ghani government’s decision to reroute a transmission line away from the province of Bamiyan in the Hazara heartland. Ever since, Afghanistan’s minorities have been turning to bygone-era warlords from their own ethnic blocs, for protection and leadership.


The ethnic stresses now stretching to their limits in Afghanistan broke out into the open in Afghanistan’s embassy in Ottawa last week, when Ambassador Shinkai Karokhail was recalled to Kabul in an uproar involving claims and counterclaims of in-house ethnic power plays and recrimination. But that’s small spuds. In the bigger picture, Afghanistan’s fracturing along ethnic lines, exacerbated by the “war weariness” of the NATO countries, has opened up a political and military vacuum that Russia and Iran are happily filling, just as they did in Syria.


Two years ago, the Kremlin stopped cooperating with NATO forces in Afghanistan. At the time, Zamir Kabulov, Vladimir Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan, confirmed that Moscow was sharing intelligence with the Taliban because “the Taliban interest objectively coincides with ours” in its doctrinal and battlefield differences with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State. When the Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was killed in a drone strike last year in Balochistan, he was returning from meeting government officials in Iran, where he also met Russian officials. In recent weeks, Taliban commanders have confirmed that Tehran is boosting its supply of funding and weaponry to the Taliban leadership, and that some of those arms shipments originate in Russia. Last October, Afghan security forces managed to repulse a massive Taliban assault in the province of Farah, on the Iranian border. Among the dead Talibs were four senior Iranian commandos, and several of the wounded Talibs were brought back across the border into Iran for hospitalization.


It is not clear what role Turkey (at least still nominally a NATO member) is taking on in Afghanistan’s ethnic troubles. In June, several of Afghanistan’s prominent Uzbek, Hazara and Tajik strongmen met in Turkey to announce a new anti-Ghani political coalition. They vowed to mount a series of mass protests to back a string of demands, but so far not much has come of it. The coalition is led by the gruesome Uzbek warlord Abdurrashid Dostum, an old friend of Turkish president Recip Erdogan. Dostum is a vice-president of Afghanistan, but he lives in Turkey, allegedly for his health, although avoiding the sexual-assault charges he faces in Afghanistan might have something to do with it as well.


While Donald Trump’s White House convulses in imbecilities and lurches from crisis to crisis, it is difficult to determine what will become of Trump’s promised overhaul of the U.S. approach in Afghanistan, although he has been quite clear that he wants to wash his hands of the country altogether. The Americans ended their official “combat role” in Afghanistan three years ago. Roughly 8,400 U.S. soldiers remain – less than a tenth the troop strength prior to Obama’s 2011 drawdown. The U.S. effort is part of a NATO training-and-assistance effort involving about 13,000 soldiers from 39 countries. Canada’s contribution, after pulling the last of our soldiers in 2014, consists of an annual $150 million package of military and reconstruction aid until 2020.


The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) counts 1,662 terror-related civilian deaths in Afghanistan between January 1 and June 30 of this year. Civilian deaths have been climbing steadily since 2012. Last week, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reported that Ghani’s government holds sway over only 60 per cent of the Afghan countryside. The Taliban controls only 11 districts, mainly in the Pashtun areas of the south and east — Helmand, Kunduz, Uruzgan, Kandahar and Zabul — but nearly a third of the country remains “contested” by the Afghan National Security Forces and an array of gangsters and crackpots from the Taliban, Al Qaida and, lately, ISIS. 


Canada lost 158 soldiers in Afghanistan in a struggle that made the country a better place. Or at least Afghanistan was getting better, for a while. However, in the absence of any competent and determined effort to win the cause our soldiers fought for — a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic — it would not be a stretch to say those soldiers died in vain.                  



PAKISTAN, A NATION OF NEVER-ENDING TURMOIL                                        

Tarek Fatah                                                                                    

Toronto Sun, Aug. 1, 2017


Friday in Pakistan is considered a holy day, but there was nothing holy about the military-judicial coup of Friday, July 28. It overthrew the unstable nuclear nation’s 19th prime minister – not one of whom has completed a full term in office. Since its creation by the departing British in 1947, unelected civilian and military dictators have governed Pakistan, sometimes with a veneer of legitimacy. Pakistan’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was not elected from any part of Pakistan. Its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was also unelected. Ironically, both came from India and took over Pakistan.


The two Indian-elected Pakistani leaders, as their first acts of governance, launched an invasion of India’s Jammu and Kashmir state in 1947. In 1948, they sent troops into the independent state of Balochistan, establishing the precedent of military-based decision-making that bypassed parliament. After Jinnah’s death and Khan’s assassination in 1951, Jinnah’s successor as governor general dismissed so many prime ministers that India’s then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, joked he had lost count of the fallen. He said they outnumbered his “dhotis” (a garment worn in India).


Many of the prime ministers who later fell victim to the military, came riding in to power, ironically enough, on tanks. In October, 1958, the first full-fledged military coup took place in Pakistan. It was led by General Ayub Khan. Among his ministers was a young lawyer, Zulfikar Bhutto, who would go on to become prime minister. By 1979, the military, now headed by General Zia-ul-Haq, staged a coup to overthrow Bhutto and forced a compliant Supreme Court to hang him.


History has now repeated itself with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who, like Butto, came into power because of the military, again being overthrown by the military, using a compliant Supreme Court. The latest crimes that Sharif has been found to have committed must seem bizarre to westerners: 1. The Supreme Court of Pakistan declared Sharif did not measure up to the moral standards set by Prophet Muhammad. This requirement was arbitrarily inserted into Pakistan’s constitution by the same military dictator, General Zia, who initially nurtured Sharif.


2. Following a corruption probe arising out of the leak of the Panama Papers, the Supreme Court found Sharif was dishonest in failing to disclose his salary from a business owned by his sons in the United Arab Emirates. This even though Sharif, who has now resigned, never withdrew any salary. In other words, he was found guilty of not declaring monies he contended he never claimed and had never received. Bizarre as it seems, given its turbulent history, Pakistan is a nuclear-powered country with weapons capable of striking both India and Israel. And yet, surprisingly, neither the U.S., nor Israel, pay much attention to this turbulent country that was the original “Islamic State” and is today home to terrorist and insurgent groups including Taliban, al-Qaida, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and now, ISIS.


Pakistan has been harshly described by someone who spent his entire life fighting both the military and its puppet prime ministers. Khair Baksh Marri, the late leader of the Balochistan freedom struggle, said of the country before he died in 2014: “Pakistan is an impure land. Living in it is like living in a brothel.” Hurtful words, to be sure. But as someone who was born there, twice imprisoned by successive military dictators and exiled on a third occasion, appropriate.






On Topic Links


Trump’s ‘Principled Realism’ Call on Afghanistan: Editorial, New York Post, Aug. 21, 2017—President Trump did something pretty remarkable Monday night: pivoting off a position he took in the 2016 race, one that’s quite defensible, to one that could earn him a world of political hurt, because he’s decided it’s best for the nation he leads.

America's 16 Years in Afghanistan: From Triumph to Stalemate: National Post, Aug. 22, 2017—Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation’s future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday outlined his strategy for “victory” in a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.

Transgender Pakistanis Win Legal Victories, but Violence Goes On: Mehreen Zahra-Malikaug, New York Times, Aug. 19, 2017 —Pakistan’s Parliament is poised to pass the nation’s first law recognizing transgender people as equal citizens and laying out penalties for discrimination and violence against them, a surprising victory for activists in a country with deeply conservative social views.

India Is Still Haunted By the Aftershocks of Partition: Michael Kugelman, National Interest, Aug. 20, 2017—This week marks the seventieth anniversary of Partition—one of the bloodiest and most traumatic events of modern times. The basic history is well known. In August 1947, Great Britain granted independence to British India. The prized colonial possession was split into two new nations: Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan.