WHILE AFGHANISTAN DRIFTS TOWARD COLLAPSE, TALIBAN LEADERS OPERATE SAFELY FROM PAKISTAN Posted on July 11, 2017 Printer Friendly The Media Miss the Mark on Afghanistan: Peter Metzger, National Review, June 23, 2017 — The press is missing something lately. The Terror Problem From Pakistan: Rahmatullah Nabil and Melissa Skorka, Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2017— With the Trump administration considering how to break the stalemate between Taliban-allied groups and the government of Afghanistan, terrorists detonated a car bomb in Kabul on May 31, killing more than 150. To Win Afghanistan, Get Tough on Pakistan: Husain Haqqani, New York Times, July 6, 2017— President Trump’s review of American policy in Afghanistan should involve adopting a tougher approach to Pakistan. Canada Rewards Terrorists; Israel Punishes Them: Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, July 4, 2017— Two news stories concerning terrorism should make Canadians realize that not only are we being governed under the doctrine of "sock and awe," but that our values have turned upside down in a bizarro world, one of our own making. On Topic Links ISIS, Despite Heavy Losses, Still Inspires Global Attacks: Ben Hubbard and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, July 8, 2017 The Islamic State of Al-Qaeda: A.J. Caschetta, The New English Review, July 2017 Trudeau Skips the Theme Socks for His Scheming Khadr Apology: Rex Murphy, National Post, July 7, 2017 No Justice, ‘No Value’ for Women in a Lawless Afghan Province: Mujib Mashal and Zahra Nader, New York Times, July 8, 2017 THE MEDIA MISS THE MARK ON AFGHANISTAN Peter Metzger National Review, June 23, 2017 The press is missing something lately. The media myopia for the on-again-off-again Russia matters of late has drawn important attention away from one actual, ongoing threat: a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the possibility of a renewed terrorist safe haven there. A toppled Kabul would provide a sanctuary in the Khorasan for al-Qaeda and the rapidly growing Islamic State presence — both clear and present threats to the United States that we fail to see covered in the media. Journalists’ nearsighted focus on all things Russian has blinded them to the intensifying dangers in the Middle East. Recently, al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a new but familiar statement calling for Muslims to wage jihad in defense of Islam regardless of country of origin. Notably, al-Qaeda released the message with an English transcript. The terror network seems to be taking a page from the Islamic State playbook in terms of mass communications and calling for jihadist global unity. So too has the heir apparent to al-Qaeda leadership and son of Osama bin Laden, Hamza bin Laden, begun to release targeted statements encouraging jihad. Al-Qaeda is, unfortunately, alive and repackaging itself for 21st-century extremists. That brings us to the current state of affairs in Afghanistan — the same country that served as a pre-9/11 hub for al-Qaeda under Taliban rule. Less than three weeks ago, on May 31, a truck bomb destroyed an entire city block in Kabul, resulting in a staggering 150 deaths. It was a tragedy for our allies in the Afghan capital, and it evinces the badly faltering infrastructure in Afghanistan. In the days following the attack on May 31, protesters took to the streets of Kabul to call for answers from President Ashraf Ghani. Several protesters died as Afghan police attempted to regain control. The following day, terrorists launched three separate attacks during the funeral of one of the protesters, the son of an Afghan official. In the northeastern province of Nangarhar, the fight with the Islamic State has ramped up significantly in 2017. On April 13, the United States executed a strike in Nangarhar, employing the much-touted “Mother of All Bombs” against Islamic State fighters. On multiple occasions in April and again this month, U.S. servicemen have been killed in the same province while conducting combat operations, also against Islamic State operatives. All this to say that the security situation in Afghanistan is not stable, although it seems that few notice in the wake of the media’s Russian fixation. Should the government of Afghanistan fall, the Afghan Taliban would almost certainly regain control. The Taliban have had an increasing presence since Obama ordered the force withdrawal of 2014. By some reports, the Taliban now control or contest as many as 40 percent of the districts in Afghanistan. “So what?” some might ask. The reason it matters is that if the Taliban again gain a foothold in Kabul and in the governance of greater Afghanistan, terror networks will once again have a safe haven — just as al-Qaeda did after their ouster from Sudan in 1996 and in the pre-9/11 years during the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and, later, on the USS Cole. The resurgence of the Taliban would be a near threat to our national security, and it would appallingly devalue the sacrifices our military and intelligence community have made in Afghanistan for almost 16 years to ensure that jihadist organizations have no such asylum. As the media and partisans chase their tails on all matters Russian, they seem to be missing the critical news that Afghanistan appears to be drifting toward the brink of collapse — all while our allies in the Afghan government and their citizens continue to suffer at the hands of terrorists. In the eyes of too many reporters, the Kabul bombing in the middle of the capital’s diplomatic corridor, the deaths of more Afghans in the days after the bombing, and the escalating conflict against the Islamic State are far less newsworthy than the many fantastical notions of “Russian collusion.” The unbalanced coverage does not reflect the importance to our national security of stability in Afghanistan. That hard-won stability is under threat; the media should not avert its gaze. Contents THE TERROR PROBLEM FROM PAKISTAN Rahmatullah Nabil and Melissa Skorka Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2017 With the Trump administration considering how to break the stalemate between Taliban-allied groups and the government of Afghanistan, terrorists detonated a car bomb in Kabul on May 31, killing more than 150. Afghan intelligence blamed the violence on Haqqani, a terror network with close ties to the Taliban, al Qaeda and Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. The attack demonstrates that Washington needs to focus on the threat from Haqqani, which has also consolidated militant factions across strategic regions of the war zone. Haqqani’s ties to Pakistan make political solutions essential. Islamabad has shown no sign it is genuinely willing to end its support of terror proxies and reconcile with the Kabul regime. Yet the success of the administration’s recent decision to deepen U.S. involvement in the Afghan war will depend on whether Haqqani can be defeated, co-opted, or separated from the ISI, which for decades has relied on militant proxies to further Pakistani interests in Afghanistan. Since 9/11, Haqqani has evolved from a relatively small, tribal-based jihadist network into one of the most influential terrorist organizations in South Asia. It is largely responsible for the violence in Kabul and the most notorious attacks against the coalition. It masterminded the 19-hour siege on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in 2011, and allegedly facilitated an assault on a U.S. Consulate near the Iran border in 2013 and a 2009 suicide bombing of a U.S. base in Khost province, which killed seven CIA operatives. The group also holds five American hostages in Pakistan. Since the 2013 death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Haqqani has become the only group with the cohesion, influence and geographic reach to provide Pakistan with “strategic depth”—a territorial buffer on its western border. Pakistan denies sponsoring terror proxies and continues to work with the U.S. in counterterrorism against certain anti-Pakistan groups. But Western and Afghan officials say Islamabad also sponsors terrorism in order to undermine Afghanistan and India. In 2011 Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Haqqani a “veritable arm” of the ISI. Haqqani is a central element of the strategic challenge that faces the U.S. and its allies. The network’s expanding operations in northern and southeastern Afghanistan, and especially in Kabul, over the past decade have enabled its Taliban affiliates to “control or contest” territory accounting for about one-third of the Afghan population, or nearly 10 million. That’s a higher proportion of the population than Islamic State controlled in Syria and Iraq at the height of its power in 2014, according to CNN’s Peter Bergen. The militants’ wide reach makes it hard for NATO forces to build enduring partnerships with Afghan civilians. As the debate intensifies over how the U.S. should respond in Afghanistan, Washington must also change its approach to Pakistan. As a first step, the president should appoint an envoy who would lead diplomatic and intelligence efforts to buttress the Kabul regime against terrorism. The envoy would also sharpen the focus on Pakistan in bilateral diplomacy with countries that have good relations with Islamabad, such as China, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states. The envoy would also oversee relations among Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Russia and India, focusing on the formulation of political solutions. A U.S. alignment with India would more effectively check Pakistan, while improved U.S. relations with China, cemented over shared concerns about escalating violence and economic security, could pressure Islamabad and its proxies into a political settlement. The U.S. should also press Pakistan to stop providing sanctuary to terrorists. That would require Washington to consider publicly exposing the extent to which officials at the highest levels of the Pakistan military and ISI support terror. Such moves against an ostensible ally would be unusual and would require advanced measures to protect intelligence sources and methods. But the U.S. has tolerated Pakistan’s duplicity for 16 years, and it hasn’t worked. Equally important, the Afghan National Security Forces are unequipped for infiltration by Haqqani factions. The U.S. and NATO allies should increase political intelligence and military resources to ease into a strengthened combat-support role, training and mentoring the Afghan forces. A more adaptive political-military NATO campaign would help reduce the threat from Haqqani, eventually enabling Afghan troops to move from defense to offense against increasingly capable adversaries. Without a broader shift in the U.S. approach to build a more peaceful regional order, the Kabul terror attack may be a harbinger of a more dangerous war to come—one in which Haqqani would play a more important role in the Afghan conflict and global jihad than any other militant network in the region. Pakistan must account for its support of terrorists and face incentives to act more like an ally that would benefit from increased stability in South Asia and beyond. Contents TO WIN AFGHANISTAN, GET TOUGH ON PAKISTAN Husain Haqqani New York Times, July 6, 2017 President Trump’s review of American policy in Afghanistan should involve adopting a tougher approach to Pakistan. Although the Taliban are said to control or contest 40 percent of Afghanistan’s territory, Taliban leaders operate from the safety of Pakistan. United States incentives since the Sept. 11 attacks have failed to dissuade Pakistan from supporting the Taliban, and Mr. Trump must now consider alternatives. Reading Pakistan correctly has not always been easy for American officials. Pakistan was a key American ally during the Cold War, the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and the post-Sept. 11 operations against Al Qaeda. But for Pakistan the alliance has been more about securing weapons, economic aid and diplomatic support in its confrontation with India. The United States and Pakistan have both disappointed each other because of divergence in their interests in South Asia. The George W. Bush administration erred in ignoring the regrouping of the Taliban in Pakistan after their defeat in Afghanistan in the aftermath of Sept. 11, considering Pakistan’s cooperation in capturing some Qaeda figures as sufficient evidence of its alliance with the United States. President Barack Obama’s administration tried to deal with a resurgent Taliban with a surge in troop numbers for a specific period. Mr. Obama deployed armed drones to strike at Taliban targets inside Pakistan, but that proved insufficient in dealing with the leadership living in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former military dictator, had secretly authorized the drone strikes, and some of the drones operated from bases inside Pakistan — a policy that continued under his civilian successors. Under his rule, Pakistan audaciously denied having anything to do with the Afghan Taliban or its most sinister component, the Haqqani network. But the United States presented evidence of Pakistan’s links to Afghan militants just as Pakistan transitioned from military to civilian rule in 2008. As Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States for the new civilian government, I urged Pakistan’s civil and military leaders to engage with Americans honestly instead of sticking to blanket denials. Islamabad’s response was to argue that Pakistan does, indeed, support insurgents in Afghanistan, but it does so because of security concerns about India, which is seen by generals and many civilian leaders as an existential threat to Pakistan. But that excuse is based on exaggerations and falsehoods. India has no offensive military presence in Afghanistan and there has never been any evidence that the Afghans are willing to be part of India’s alleged plan for a two-front war with Pakistan. Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, recently asked India to train Afghan military officers and repair military aircraft after frustration with Pakistan, which failed to fulfill promises of restraining the Taliban and forcing them to the negotiating table. Pakistan’s leaders question Afghanistan’s acceptance of economic assistance from India even though Pakistan does not have the capacity to provide such aid itself. It seems that Pakistan wants to keep alive imaginary fears, possibly to maintain military ascendancy in a country that has been ruled by generals for almost half of its existence. For years Pakistani officials falsely asserted that India had set up 24 consulates in Afghanistan, some close to the Pakistani border. In fact, India has only four consulates, the same number Pakistan has, in Afghanistan. Lying about easily verifiable facts is usually the tactic of governments fabricating a threat rather than ones genuinely facing one. As ambassador, I attended trilateral meetings where my colleagues rejected serious suggestions from Afghans and Americans to mitigate apprehensions about Indian influence in Afghanistan. While evidence of an Indian threat to Pakistan through Afghanistan remains scant, proof of the presence of Afghan Taliban leaders in Pakistan continues to mount. Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s leader, reportedly died in a Pakistani hospital in 2013 and his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was killed in an American drone strike in Baluchistan Province in Pakistan last year. The United States should not let Pakistan link its longstanding support for hard-line Pashtun Islamists in Afghanistan to its disputes with India. Both India and Pakistan have a lot of blood on their hands in Kashmir and seem in no hurry to resolve their disagreement, which is rooted in the psychosis resulting from the subcontinent’s bitter partition. The two countries have gone through 45 rounds of summit-level talks since 1947 and have failed to reach a permanent settlement. Linking the outcome in Afghanistan to resolution of India-Pakistan issues would keep the United States embroiled there for a very long time. The recent rise in Islamophobia in India and a more aggressive stance against Pakistan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi should not detract from recognizing the paranoiac nature of Pakistan’s fears. The Bush administration gave Pakistan $12.4 billion in aid, and the Obama administration forked over $21 billion. These incentives did not make Pakistan more amenable to cutting off support for the Afghan Taliban. The Trump administration should now consider taking away Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, which would limit its priority access to American military technology. Aid to Pakistan should be linked to a sequence and timeline for specific actions against Taliban leaders. Sanctions against individuals and institutions involved in facilitating Pakistan-based Taliban leaders and pursuing Taliban reconciliation talks without depending on Pakistan could be other measures signaling a firmer United States stance. Moving away from an incentive-based approach would not be punishing Pakistan. The United States would be acting as a friend, helping Pakistan realize through tough measures that the gravest threat to its future comes from religious extremism it is fostering in its effort to compete with India. Negotiating a peaceful settlement with the Taliban also remains desirable, but it is important to remember the difficulties 21st-century negotiators face while seeking compromise with seventh-century mind-sets. Contents CANADA REWARDS TERRORISTS; ISRAEL PUNISHES THEM Tarek Fatah Toronto Sun, July 4, 2017 Two news stories concerning terrorism should make Canadians realize that not only are we being governed under the doctrine of "sock and awe," but that our values have turned upside down in a bizarro world, one of our own making. first to Israel, where on Monday the government revealed it has filed a precedent-setting lawsuit against the family of a terrorist who drove a truck into a group of military personnel killing four Israeli soldiers. Attacker Fadi al-Qunbar was shot dead shot and killed in January, and the matter would have rested there. But this time Israel has made the landmark decision to sue against any inheritance the terrorist left to his family. The lawsuit, which is expected to be the first of many similar cases, demands a total of more than $2.3 million. Israel's Minister of the Interior Arye Dery told the Haaretz newspaper, "From now on, anyone who plots, plans or considers carrying out a terrorist attack will know that his family will pay a heavy price for his deed." Not so in Canada. On the same day as the terrorist Fadi al-Qumbar was being penalized by Israel, in Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government announced that convicted terrorist Omar Khadr, who in October 2010 had pleaded guilty to "murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, spying, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism," was to receive a $10M "compensation" for his troubles and an official apology from the Government of Canada. Mr. Khadr, now 30, was 15 in July 2002 when he lived in an Afghan compound with a group of bomb-building Islamic jihadis planting roadside explosives. Afterwards, U.S. troops stormed the house and this is where a grenade thrown by Khadr killed Sergeant Christopher Speer, a medic who was helmet-less and dressed in Afghan clothing. It is true that at the time Omar Khadr committed his act of terror and murder, he was only 15 years old, but in the context of the war against civilization by Islamic terrorists, be they from the Taliban, ISIS, Al-Shabab, or Boko Haram, the vast number of volunteers who have taken up arms and carried out war crimes are in their teens. For bleeding-heart liberals whose guilt-ridden frame of mind cannot comprehend beyond the storybook picture of the child soldiers hired by African war lords, this may be a shock, but the ultimate hero of Muslims in the part of the world Omar Khadr was photographed making IEDs, is the 8th century 17-year old Arab invader of India called Muhammad Bin Qasim, and from Kabul to Karachi every child jihadi wishes to emulate the rape and plunder of this Arab jihadi. We are not dealing with the God's Army in Uganda or the Liberian child soldiers of the 1990s. The Muslim boys who go to fight jihad do so not under any pressure, but for the lure of entering Paradise and meeting the opposite gender for the first time. This may sound bizarre to the non-Muslim, but trust me, this is not fiction nor propaganda. But there may still be some poetic justice in the end. Tabitha Speer, the widow of Sargent Speer, moved to finalize a default civil-suit judgment against Omar Khadr. The court granted the plaintiffs a total of US$134.1 million in damages. It would be sweet revenge if the $10M "compensation" went straight from Omar Khadr's pockets to Sgt. Speer's widow. Contents On Topic Links ISIS, Despite Heavy Losses, Still Inspires Global Attacks: Ben Hubbard and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, July 8, 2017—Three years ago, a black-clad cleric named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ascended a mosque pulpit in the Iraqi city of Mosul and addressed the world as leader of a new terrorist state. The Islamic State of Al-Qaeda: A.J. Caschetta, The New English Review, July 2017—With Iraqi forces now controlling most of Mosul and the siege of Raqqa underway, many are predicting the imminent demise of the Islamic State. ISIS propagandists argue that the caliphate can withstand the loss of territory, but without a "state" to fight for, many jihadis will look elsewhere for support and inspiration. Trudeau Skips the Theme Socks for His Scheming Khadr Apology: Rex Murphy, National Post, July 7, 2017—How and when Canadians were let in on the Trudeau government’s lavish settlement and accompanying official apology to Omar Khadr are its most curious and telling elements. No Justice, ‘No Value’ for Women in a Lawless Afghan Province: Mujib Mashal and Zahra Nader, New York Times, July 8, 2017—There are three versions of how Tabaruk, a mother of six, died this spring during a journey through treacherous snow-covered mountains in Afghanistan.