Tag: Afghanistan

PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN’S MINORITIES FACE INCREASING DISCRIMINATION & PERSECUTION

Bring Asia Bibi to America: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, Nov. 13, 2018— Eight years ago this month, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to be hanged on the charge of blasphemy.

Desperate Pakistani Christians Languish in Thailand: Doug Bandow, National Review, Oct. 29, 2018— Thailand’s capital of Bangkok is a large, bustling, chaotic metropolis.

Taliban Slaughter Elite Afghan Troops, and a ‘Safe’ District Is Falling: Rod Nordland, New York Times, Nov. 12, 2018— One pickup truck after another arrived at the government compound in a district capital in Afghanistan on Sunday, pulling around to the back of the governor’s office to unload the dead, out of sight of panicked residents.

The Islamic State’s Future in Afghanistan: Daud Khattak, BESA, Oct. 1, 2018— The Islamic State (ISIS) temporarily managed to win over disgruntled elements among the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban alongside youth from the remote districts…

On Topic Links

The West Must Offer Immediate Asylum to Asia Bibi: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 14, 2018

Violence Continues as Pakistani Islamists Protest Christian Woman’s “Blasphemy” Acquittal: IPT News, Nov 2, 2018

The Talib Across the Table: Editorial, Weekly Standard, Nov. 12, 2018

Freeland Orders Internal Review of Afghan Aid: Globe & Mail, Nov. 8, 2018

 

                                       

BRING ASIA BIBI TO AMERICA    

Clifford D. May

Washington Times, Nov. 13, 2018

 

Eight years ago this month, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to be hanged on the charge of blasphemy. She has spent the years since on death row. Now, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has overturned her conviction on grounds of insufficient evidence. So this sad story turns out to have a happy ending, right? C’mon, you knew it wasn’t going to be that simple.

Let’s begin in 1947, before Ms. Bibi, now 53 years old, was even born. British India was partitioned into two independent nation-states, one with a Hindu majority, one with a Muslim majority. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, intended for his country’s minorities — Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Ahmadis and Christians among them — to enjoy full citizenship, with human and civil rights guaranteed. His vision was not realized. Less than a decade later, Pakistan became an Islamic Republic, one that has become increasingly intolerant. In 1986, President Zia ul-Haq made blasphemy a capital offense.

Year after year, Pakistan’s minorities, subject to increasing discrimination and persecution, have been emigrating. Asia Bibi, her husband and their five children are among those who have remained. On a hot June day in 2009, while working on a farm near Lahore in the Punjab Province, she was asked to fetch water for a group of Muslim women. One of the women refused to drink from the cup she brought them, saying that because it had been touched by a non-Muslim, it was unclean. Ms. Bibi is alleged to have told the Muslim women that Jesus “died on the cross for the sins of mankind,” and then asked: “What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”

The Muslim women complained to the authorities who promptly arrested her for insulting Islam. Punjab’s governor, Salmaan Taseer, a vocal opponent of blasphemy laws, visited her in prison, and argued that it would be a gross injustice to execute her. On Jan. 4, 2011, Mr. Taseer was shot multiple times at close range as he was getting into his car following lunch. His assassin, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadrihe, was a member of the elite police unit assigned to protect him. The killer explained to a television crew that arrived on the scene: “I am a slave of the Prophet, and the punishment for one who commits blasphemy is death.” Hundreds of clerics expressed support for him and called for a boycott of Mr. Taseer’s funeral.

Following Ms. Bibi’s acquittal last week, violent protests erupted around the country. Pakistan’s new prime minister, Imran Khan, a former cricket star, warned demonstrators not to “test the patience of the state.” It is by no means certain, however, that Mr. Khan will stand up to the Islamic supremacists. His government has not yet agreed to allow Ms. Bibi to leave Pakistan, obvious though it is that for her to stay would be perilous. She is now reportedly under protective custody at an undisclosed location. According to the Huffington Post, her “appeal to Britain for asylum has been denied because her arrival in the country may stir civil unrest.” If true, that represents a British surrender to jihadists — not least, the thousands who now hold U.K. citizenship.

A modest proposal: President Trump should invite Ms. Bibi to come to America and request asylum. To do so would be just, moral and wise. Just and moral because her life is in peril based on the fact that she is a Christian living in one of the many unfree Muslim-majority countries from which Christians are, in this century, being “cleansed.” Wise because Mr. Trump is being reviled — unjustifiably, in my opinion — for refusing to open America’s doors to “caravans,” facilitated by a group called Peoples Without Borders, heading north from Central America. The president believes that the United States cannot integrate the tens of millions of people who — understandably, in my opinion — want to leave countries ruled by despots and/or incompetents, and enjoy the liberties and opportunities that America provides.

I don’t see how it is either wrong or heartless to insist that the United States have laws concerning immigration, and that those laws be enforced. Surely, American citizens have both a right and a responsibility to decide how many immigrants — “migrants” is an intentionally misleading term — we take in, and who should be at the front of the long line. The American welfare state is not so strong that its back can’t be broken. What happens then?

Some European countries are reportedly considering offering asylum to Ms. Bibi and her family. But just last month, the European Court of Human Rights affirmed the conviction of an Austrian woman for “disparagement of religious precepts,” a sophisticated way of saying she had insulted Muhammad (by critically discussing his marriage to Aisha, who was 6 years old when wed). The court called that defamation, adding that it “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate,” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.” The Austrian woman was given a choice between paying a 480 euro fine and spending 60 days in jail. She was not sentenced to be hanged, as would be the case in Pakistan. I find that less than entirely reassuring.

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DESPERATE PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS LANGUISH IN THAILAND               

Doug Bandow                                                                                                       

National Review, Oct. 29, 2018 

Thailand’s capital of Bangkok is a large, bustling, chaotic metropolis. The friendly, informal nation of Thailand draws visitors from around the world. Filling some backstreet neighborhoods are impoverished Pakistani Christians, stranded in the Thai capital while hoping to gain religious asylum elsewhere…

The problem reflects domestic failures in Pakistan, especially social and legal discrimination and persecution, often violent, against religious minorities. Islamabad is formally an American ally but in practice has constantly challenged U.S. interests. The domestic political system is unstable, corrupt, and dominated by the military. Religious minorities suffer: not just Christians, but Ahmadis, Hindus, and others as well. Pervasive persecution has driven Pakistanis abroad in search of asylum. Noted the Global Minorities Alliance: “An increase of attacks against minorities in Pakistan . . . has led to Christians heavy-heartedly fleeing their country,” many to Thailand.

There’s not much the U.S. government can do to ease Christians’ plight in Pakistan, other than press Islamabad to protect the lives, dignity, and liberties of all their peoples. But Washington could accept the few thousand Pakistanis stuck in Bangkok, essentially people without a country, unable to go either forward or backward. Even the Trump administration should welcome religious minorities fleeing Islamist oppression.

Pakistan long has been inhospitable to anyone other than Sunni Muslims. General-turned-president Muhammad al-Zia-ul-Haq ruled from 1978 to 1988; he consolidated power by playing to radical Islamist sentiments, shifting the nation away from the original secular vision of founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The latter promised: “Minorities, to whoever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith, or belief will be secure.” Alas, that sentiment died years ago, and the furies Zia loosed now are ravaging the country. Christian-persecution watchdog group Open Doors ranked Pakistan as the world’s number-five persecutor on its World Watch List. Islamabad lags behind only North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sudan.

The British All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief recently detailed the awful state of religious liberty in Pakistan. The MPs’ report noted: “Pakistan presents a particularly bleak environment for individuals wishing to manifest their right to freedom of religion or belief.” Important issues, the group pointed out, include lack of political representation, blasphemy laws, inadequate protection of religious minorities and their defenders, and brutal threats against women, adults, and children.

The problem is twofold: There is both state and private persecution. The APPG warned that the result is “a dangerous environment for any adherent of a religious belief not deemed ‘orthodox’ by those around them to practice their right to manifest their beliefs.” Of course, not everyone suffers equally. The report noted “the likelihood of persecution depends on factors such as their encounters with and actions amongst people of other/different faiths or beliefs,” as well as other issues. One action that makes anyone vulnerable is conversion: “If a Muslim makes a decision to become a Christian — becoming an apostate and, in turn, blaspheming against the Prophet — and their conversion becomes public knowledge, their life will be at risk.”

Last year the Global Minorities Alliance produced a report entitled “Are Christians in Pakistan Persecuted?” The answer was an obvious yes. Pakistan has the world’s second-largest Muslim population, trailing only Indonesia. More than 96 percent of Pakistan’s population is Muslim; just 1.5 percent are Christians, who nevertheless constitute the largest minority group. The GMA found that they, along with other religious minorities, “are routinely marginalized and are often condemned to a life of poverty, disadvantage and the fear of persecution.”

Jinnah’s inclusive vision “was never fulfilled,” concluded GMA. Even under Zia the situation deteriorated, after the introduction of blasphemy laws in the 1980s. The situation worsened again under President Pervez Musharraf, after he backed the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom rated Pakistan a “country of particular concern,” and the State Department put Pakistan on its “Special Watch List.” State’s annual religious-liberty report repeats the sad saga of pervasive discrimination, brutality, and persecution. False blasphemy charges often led to mob violence, the “basic rights” of Ahmadis were denied, and the “authorities often failed to intervene in instances of societal violence against religious minorities.”

Such general descriptions do not give a true sense of the ubiquitous and oppressive nature of religious persecution in Pakistan. Umair Javed, a columnist for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, writes that “violence against minority groups is deeply embedded within political and social processes in Pakistan.” These reports identify several instances of attacks on Christians. Christian women are subjected to forced marriages and conversions. Asia Bibi, an illiterate field worker and mother of five, has been imprisoned since 2009 on charges widely believed to false, made by co-workers angry that she shared their cup when drinking water…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]                  

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TALIBAN SLAUGHTER ELITE AFGHAN TROOPS,

AND A ‘SAFE’ DISTRICT IS FALLING

Rod Nordland

New York Times, Nov. 12, 2018

One pickup truck after another arrived at the government compound in a district capital in Afghanistan on Sunday, pulling around to the back of the governor’s office to unload the dead, out of sight of panicked residents. Soldiers and police officers, many in tears, heaved bodies of their comrades from the trucks and laid them on sheets on the ground, side by side on their backs, until there were 20 of them.

The dead all wore the desert-brown boots of Afghanistan’s finest troops, the Special Forces commandos trained by the United States. Four days earlier, the soldiers had been airlifted in to rescue what is widely considered Afghanistan’s safest rural district, Jaghori, from a determined assault by Taliban insurgents. Early on Sunday, their company of 50 soldiers was almost entirely destroyed on the front line. And suddenly, Jaghori — a haven for an ethnic Hazara Shiite minority that has been persecuted by extremists — appeared at risk of being completely overrun by the Taliban…

A small team of journalists …went into Jaghori’s capital, Sang-e-Masha, on Sunday morning to report on the symbolic importance of what everyone expected to be a fierce stand against the insurgents. Instead, we found bandaged commandos wandering the streets in apparent despair, and officials discussing how they could flee an area almost entirely surrounded by the Taliban. By the end of the day, we were on the run, too.

Officials told us that more than 30 of the commandos had been killed, and we could see, on the streets and in the hospitals, 10 other wounded commandos. An additional 50 police officers and militiamen were also killed in the previous 24 hours, according to the militia’s commander, Nazer Hussein, who arrived from the front line with his wounded to plead for reinforcements. “This is genocide,” Commander Hussein said. “If they don’t do something soon, the whole district will be in the Taliban’s hands.”

The disaster prompted a protest by Hazaras in Kabul, who railed against what they said was government inaction, but even that took a deadly turn. The demonstration had just ended on Monday when a suicide bomber struck, killing three women and three men, one of them a police officer, according to a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

Jaghori’s 600,000 people are poor and live in an isolated part of the central highlands, an area that has no paved roads or electric lines, with terraced wheat fields and abundant orchards of almond and apple trees. But the district is famous for how peaceful it had been. Most people say they cannot remember the last time there was a murder or serious robbery. And the district’s education record is aspirational for the rest of the country: Schooling is nearly universal among girls, and much higher than the Afghan average for boys. (Nationally, less than a fourth of Afghan girls complete high school.)

Many of Afghanistan’s most prominent women are from Jaghori, where the sight of girls riding bicycles and even driving vehicles — virtually unknown in major Afghan cities — is common. In recent years, though, Jaghori District has largely been cut off from the rest of the country, since it is in Ghazni Province, much of which is controlled by the Taliban, and the main roads leading to the district have been blocked by the insurgents. Three years ago, a small airstrip was put in, but scheduled air service has yet to begin. People who have managed to get out of Jaghori are usually smuggled by drivers along remote tracks. That trip used to cost about $50 a person. In the past week, it has increased to $350.

A week ago, the Taliban broke a longstanding truce and attacked Jaghori from three directions in what appears to be a determined effort to take the district, as the insurgents have done elsewhere with increasing frequency, inflicting steadily rising death tolls on government forces. Nazer Hussein, a militia commander, arrived to plead for reinforcements. “If they don’t do something soon, the whole district will be in the Taliban’s hands,” he said.  “The Taliban attacked us because this is where all the schools are, and because here there are even more girls in school than boys,” said Mubarez Nabizada, who works for the charity Shuhada, which runs orphanages and a hospital…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]

 

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THE ISLAMIC STATE’S FUTURE IN AFGHANISTAN                                                 

Daud Khattak

BESA, Oct. 1, 2018

The Islamic State (ISIS) temporarily managed to win over disgruntled elements among the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban alongside youth from the remote districts in Afghanistan’s east soon after restructuring and renaming itself Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K) in 2014. IS-K’s initial victories against the Taliban and the Afghan government on both the battle and propaganda fronts rang alarm bells in world capitals, particularly among the weaker neighboring Central Asian states.

The group’s emergence and battlefield successes also panicked the Afghan Taliban, the insurgent group monopolizing violence in Afghanistan. For a while, their status as the sole non-state actor to take on the Afghan government and the international community in that country was challenged. However, over the passage of months, IS-K’s propaganda lost its appeal among common Afghans and Pakistanis as the group mostly reversed its battlefield gains in eastern Afghanistan. One of the prime reasons for these reversals is the group’s incompatibility with the region.

The majority of IS-K’s senior leadership was removed from the scene within months of the groups’ emergence in eastern Afghanistan in the second half of 2014. Hafiz Saeed Khan, Rauf Khadim, and Shahidullah Shahid, the founding members, were killed in drone strikes and special forces operations within a year of its announcement. The latest blow was the elimination of top commander Abu Saeed Orakzai, aka Saad Arhabi, who was killed in a joint operation by Afghan and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan in late August. Arhabi was the fourth IS-K chief killed since the group’s establishment.

Apart from the eastern Nangahar province, Jawzjan in Afghanistan’s north was reckoned as the other stronghold of the Syria-based group. However, droves of IS-K fighters and commanders, both local and foreign, surrendered to the Afghan government in early August after a year-long siege by the Taliban. The surrender came less than a month after the killing of IS-K’s top leader, Taliban renegade Qari Hekmat, in a US airstrike in the same area. The rapid successive losses of senior commanders have kept IS-K from developing into a well-coordinated group like the Afghan Taliban despite its fighting skills and extreme brutality.

Apart from the Afghan government and the coalition troops, the IS-K’s biggest challenge on Afghan turf is the Taliban, the group that has monopolized violence since its ouster from power in late 2001. The Afghan Taliban draw their inspiration from the life and struggle of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the self-proclaimed Amir al-Mu’minin (Leader of the Faithful), who led the Taliban movement in the mid-1990s and seized Kabul from the warlords to establish a hardline regime in the country.

IS-K, on the other hand, shows allegiance to Abu Bakar Baghdadi, the leader of its ISIS parent organization, with little regard for the Taliban’s spiritual chief. Religious differences apart, the two groups are the antithesis of one other politically as well. An IS-K victory is reckoned as a loss for the Taliban, who would never allow an “alien” group to set up shop in an area they have retained and kept under their exclusive influence for the past 17 years. More than the Afghan government or the coalition forces, it is the Afghan Taliban who are resisting the IS-K presence in both the eastern and northern parts of Afghanistan.

Apart from intra-group grievances over the distribution of authority and other petty disputes, many commanders and fighters from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban joined IS-K in the hope of gaining access to the huge financial support they believed (or were made to believe) was coming from ISIS. Even local thugs and criminals joined the group in some remote towns and villages to gain power and get access to the cash. At the very beginning, unemployed youth who joined the group were offered better monthly payments than Afghan policemen or soldiers, with the promise of still more in the days ahead.

However, hopes began to fade with the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. IS-K would have continued to flourish, at least in areas where the group had established a foothold in the early stages, had they received sufficient sums from their Middle East-based patrons to support their jihadist activities in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. But that channel dried up very early on…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]

Contents

On Topic Links

The West Must Offer Immediate Asylum to Asia Bibi: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 14, 2018—Asia Bibi’s case looks as if it is coming from “another, medieval world.”

Violence Continues as Pakistani Islamists Protest Christian Woman’s “Blasphemy” Acquittal: IPT News, Nov 2, 2018—Thousands of Islamist demonstrators in Pakistan continue to violently protest the acquittal of Asia Bibi…

The Talib Across the Table: Editorial, Weekly Standard, Nov. 12, 2018—The Obama Administration’s decision in 2014 to trade five imprisoned Taliban fighters for Bowe Bergdahl…

Freeland Orders Internal Review of Afghan Aid: Globe & Mail, Nov. 8, 2018— Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is ordering an internal review of Canadian aid to Afghanistan to determine whether taxpayer money has been wasted on questionable projects and to ensure more oversight.

TRUMP’S AFGHAN STRATEGY “MOSTLY A CONTINUATION” OF OBAMA’S

Losing a War: Thomas Joscelyn, Weekly Standard, Aug. 27, 2018— President Donald Trump opposes his own policy in Afghanistan. It shows.

The Islamic State’s Future in Afghanistan: Daud Khattak, BESA, Oct. 1, 2018— The Islamic State (ISIS) temporarily managed to win over disgruntled elements among the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban alongside youth from the remote districts in Afghanistan’s east soon after restructuring and renaming itself Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K) in 2014.

Pakistan: New Government Fails to Support Minorities: Kaswar Klasra, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 11, 2018— Radical Islamists took to the streets of Pakistan on September 1…

In Turkey and Pakistan, Discouraging Elections: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, Aug. 1, 2018 — Not so long ago, freedom and democracy seemed to be on the march in the world, with Turkey and Pakistan, two strategically important Muslim-majority nations, near the front of the parade.

On Topic Links 

Election Rally Bombing in Afghanistan Heightens Security Fears: Zabihullah Ghazi and Mujib Mashal, New York Times, Oct. 2, 2018

The Afghanistan War Has Gone on so Long that People Born after Sept. 11 Can Now Enlist: Alex Horton, Washington Post, September 12, 2018

Future of U.S.-Pakistan Relations Rests Upon Progress in Afghanistan, Says Top Diplomat: Carlo Muñoz, Washington Times, Oct. 3, 2018

Pakistan’s Ahmadis Fearful as Leaders Bow to Extremists: Kathy Gannon, National Post, Sept. 28, 2018 

 

LOSING A WAR

Thomas Joscelyn

Weekly Standard, Aug. 27, 2018

President Donald Trump opposes his own policy in Afghanistan. It shows. Trump’s disdain for the war in Afghanistan had long been well known, so no one in the White House knew what he would decide to do about it in the summer of 2017. Multiple options were on the table in Trump’s freewheeling administration. The president had heard plans ranging from privatizing the war under the authority of military contractors, to a narrowly defined, CIA-led counterterrorism mission, to a more robust deployment of American forces, to a complete withdrawal. Finally, after months of debate, Trump decided that the U.S. military would stay in Afghanistan and ordered a modest increase of several thousand troops. The president was frustrated that his own advisers had talked him into this option, according to current and former administration officials familiar with the deliberations. Nonetheless, Trump grudgingly owned it.

On August 21, 2017, the president announced his decision during a speech at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia. “Our troops will fight to win,” he said. “We will fight to win.” The president recognized that “the American people are weary of war without victory,” yet he vowed this iteration of America’s longest war would be different. “The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory,” the president said. “They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.”

No one is talking about winning the war in Afghanistan these days. America hasn’t even been trying to win the war. “We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan,” Trump’s secretary of defense James Mattis said in March. Mattis then quickly clarified that this would not be a “military victory.” Instead, the “victory will be a political reconciliation” with the Taliban. This is not what President Trump said in August 2017. In his speech announcing the policy, the president was openly skeptical that any such peace deal could be reached: “Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.”

According to senior administration officials…that last phrase—“nobody knows if or when that will ever happen”—was Trump’s insertion. The president was wary of any strategy that hinged on the idea that a grand bargain with the Taliban was possible. He entertained only the possibility that “elements of the Taliban” could be convinced to lay down their arms—not the group’s senior leadership or the majority of the insurgents. Furthermore, the possible talks were to take place only “after an effective military effort.”

Despite Trump’s talk of winning, no such campaign ever materialized. There has been no effective military effort. The promises to furnish our warfighters with the tools they need to win—and a plan for victory—have gone unfulfilled. We are once again fighting not to lose. But we’re losing anyway.

The Taliban launched a massive offensive in Ghazni Province earlier this month. The jihadists ransacked parts of Ghazni’s capital city for several days before melting away into the countryside, much of which they already controlled. As Ghazni burned and its residents were sent fleeing, Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, claimed the city remained “under Afghan control” and Afghan forces were merely performing “clearing operations.” It was a scene reminiscent of Baghdad Bob telling reporters in 2003 that all was well, even as American-led forces easily dispensed with Saddam Hussein’s men. The Afghans and Americans established some semblance of normalcy in Ghazni after several days, but by then the Taliban was already rampaging through other areas, killing dozens of security personnel.

The lack of demonstrable success has caused U.S. military commanders to redefine victory. Some of them now contend that the war is a stalemate in which the Taliban is incapable of overrunning Afghanistan’s more populated areas. They sell this as progress. But they are seeing the conflict through rose-colored glasses. The insurgents are capable of mustering enough forces for offensives throughout the country at any time. The Taliban’s men contest or control approximately 60 percent of the country—as much ground as at any point since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001. There is no reason to think they feel pressured to negotiate.

Trump preached patience in his speech a year ago, comparing his approach to President Obama’s. “Conditions on the ground—not arbitrary timetables—will guide our strategy from now on,” Trump said. This was a rebuke to Obama’s decision simultaneously to announce a surge in troops and a timetable for their withdrawal in December 2009. Military commanders knew that this created an incentive for the jihadists to wait America out, and that’s what they did. Trump also pointed out that President Obama “hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq” in 2011, thereby paving the way for the rise of the Islamic State, or ISIS. But Trump, like his predecessor, signaled his doubts about the war in announcing his commitment to win it. “My original instinct was to pull out—and, historically, I like following my instincts,” he explained.

Trump is an instinctive president—and an impatient one. Sensing that time is short, some administration officials are now attempting to negotiate a face-saving deal with the Taliban, one that allows America to leave without the appearance of having lost. Multiple news outlets in recent weeks have reported that the White House has given the go-ahead for direct talks with the jihadists. This effort will almost certainly fail—as it did under Barack Obama. One year after the president’s announcement of a new Afghanistan policy, it’s increasingly clear that the current approach to Afghanistan isn’t a radical departure from Obama’s but mostly a continuation of it…

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

Contents

   

                                    THE ISLAMIC STATE’S FUTURE IN AFGHANISTAN               

                                                          Daud Khattak

BESA, Oct. 1, 2018

The Islamic State (ISIS) temporarily managed to win over disgruntled elements among the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban alongside youth from the remote districts in Afghanistan’s east soon after restructuring and renaming itself Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K) in 2014. IS-K’s initial victories against the Taliban and the Afghan government on both the battle and propaganda fronts rang alarm bells in world capitals, particularly among the weaker neighboring Central Asian states.

The group’s emergence and battlefield successes also panicked the Afghan Taliban, the insurgent group monopolizing violence in Afghanistan. For a while, their status as the sole non-state actor to take on the Afghan government and the international community in that country was challenged. However, over the passage of months, IS-K’s propaganda lost its appeal among common Afghans and Pakistanis as the group mostly reversed its battlefield gains in eastern Afghanistan. One of the prime reasons for these reversals is the group’s incompatibility with the region.

The majority of IS-K’s senior leadership was removed from the scene within months of the groups’ emergence in eastern Afghanistan in the second half of 2014. Hafiz Saeed Khan, Rauf Khadim, and Shahidullah Shahid, the founding members, were killed in drone strikes and special forces operations within a year of its announcement. The latest blow was the elimination of top commander Abu Saeed Orakzai, aka Saad Arhabi, who was killed in a joint operation by Afghan and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan in late August. Arhabi was the fourth IS-K chief killed since the group’s establishment.

Apart from the eastern Nangahar province, Jawzjan in Afghanistan’s north was reckoned as the other stronghold of the Syria-based group. However, droves of IS-K fighters and commanders, both local and foreign, surrendered to the Afghan government in early August after a year-long siege by the Taliban. The surrender came less than a month after the killing of IS-K’s top leader, Taliban renegade Qari Hekmat, in a US airstrike in the same area. The rapid successive losses of senior commanders have kept IS-K from developing into a well-coordinated group like the Afghan Taliban despite its fighting skills and extreme brutality.

Apart from the Afghan government and the coalition troops, the IS-K’s biggest challenge on Afghan turf is the Taliban, the group that has monopolized violence since its ouster from power in late 2001. The Afghan Taliban draw their inspiration from the life and struggle of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the self-proclaimed Amir al-Mu’minin (Leader of the Faithful), who led the Taliban movement in the mid-1990s and seized Kabul from the warlords to establish a hardline regime in the country.

IS-K, on the other hand, shows allegiance to Abu Bakar Baghdadi, the leader of its ISIS parent organization, with little regard for the Taliban’s spiritual chief. Religious differences apart, the two groups are the antithesis of one other politically as well. An IS-K victory is reckoned as a loss for the Taliban, who would never allow an “alien” group to set up shop in an area they have retained and kept under their exclusive influence for the past 17 years. More than the Afghan government or the coalition forces, it is the Afghan Taliban who are resisting the IS-K presence in both the eastern and northern parts of Afghanistan.

Apart from intra-group grievances over the distribution of authority and other petty disputes, many commanders and fighters from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban joined IS-K in the hope of gaining access to the huge financial support they believed (or were made to believe) was coming from ISIS. Even local thugs and criminals joined the group in some remote towns and villages to gain power and get access to the cash. At the very beginning, unemployed youth who joined the group were offered better monthly payments than Afghan policemen or soldiers, with the promise of still more in the days ahead.

However, hopes began to fade with the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. IS-K would have continued to flourish, at least in areas where the group had established a foothold in the early stages, had they received sufficient sums from their Middle East-based patrons to support their jihadist activities in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. But that channel dried up very early on.

Afghan society is dominated by the relatively moderate Hanafi school of thought, while IS-K, like its ISIS parent organization, is a strict follower of Salafi ideology. That ideology takes its religious interpretation directly from the Hadith (the sayings of the prophet Muhammad) and the Qur’an rather than from any other individual or school of thought. Afghans are a traditional tribal society and they cherish their Islamic rituals, which incorporate local customs and traditions. IS-K’s puritanical version of Islam sees tradition-enhanced Islamic rituals as Bid’a (heretical innovation), and the punishment is death.

It is against this backdrop that IS-K has always been regarded by Afghans as a foreign force that has little regard for Afghan culture, customs, or traditions. One example is Afghans’ gathering together to pray for the soul of a deceased person or their visiting of graves and shrines. These rituals have no place in IS-K’s Salafist ideology…

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

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          PAKISTAN: NEW GOVERNMENT FAILS TO SUPPORT MINORITIES 

                                                          Kaswar Klasra                   

                                                Gatestone Institute, Sept. 11, 2018

Radical Islamists took to the streets of Pakistan on September 1, to protest Prime Minister Imran Khan’s appointment of former Princeton University scholar Atif Mian, a minority Muslim of the Ahmadiyya faith, to the Economic Advisory Council (EAC). Demanding that Mian be removed from the EAC, a key forum that advises the prime minister on economic issues, demonstrators threatened to lock down Pakistan’s major cities, including Islamabad, its capital.

Mian’s appointment was opposed by Pakistan’s right wing political parties including “Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP)”, which strongly objected to his Ahmadi faith. In addition, a well-orchestrated social-media smear campaign is being waged against Mian — the only Pakistani on the International Monetary Fund’s 2014 list of the world’s “25 brightest young economists” — for the sole reason that he adheres to the Ahmadiyya faith.

Then, in a move that raised eyebrows both in Pakistan and abroad, the government succumbed to the pressure of Islamists by showing the door to Mian: he was asked to step down from membership of the EAC. He tendered his resignation on Friday following a request by the government. Federal Minister of Information Fawad Chaudhary confirmed the development…”The government requested Atif Mian, internationally acclaimed economist, to resign from the EAC because it wants to avoid a confrontation,” Chaudhary said.

This was not the first incidence of a well-qualified Ahmadi Muslim being targeted by extremist Islamists in Pakistan. In fact, discrimination against prominent members of this minority group is widespread. Take the case of Mohammad Abdus Salam, a Pakistani Ahmadi Muslim who in 1979 shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg “for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles.” Salam was the first Pakistani to receive a Nobel Prize in science, and the second person from an Islamic country, after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, ever to have been awarded a Nobel Prize in any field.

Soon after the Pakistani Parliament declared Ahmadis to be “non-Muslims” in 1974, Salam left Pakistan for London in protest. He died peacefully in Oxford on November 21, 1996, and was buried in Bahishti Maqbara, an Ahmadi cemetery in Rabwah, Pakistan. In 2014, his grave was desecrated and the word “Muslim” removed from the headstone, “on the orders of the government.” This shameful erasure illustrates the way minorities in Pakistan cannot escape humiliation, even after death.

The history of persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan is long and bloody. Since being declared non-Muslim in 1974, the small community of Ahmadis has been under constant threat by the hardline members of the Muslim majority…

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

 

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IN TURKEY AND PAKISTAN, DISCOURAGING ELECTIONS

Clifford D. May

Washington Times, Aug. 1, 2018

Not so long ago, freedom and democracy seemed to be on the march in the world, with Turkey and Pakistan, two strategically important Muslim-majority nations, near the front of the parade. That turns out to have been an illusion. Elections recently held in these countries have, paradoxically, made that clear.

In Turkey, votes cast in June gave President Recep Tayyip Erdogan powers he has long coveted. He is now, effectively, head of state and government, the military and the judiciary. For quite some time now, he also has been censoring the media, instructing private industry and filling his jails with enemies and dissidents. Brick by brick, he is dismantling the legacy of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, who founded the Republic of Turkey in 1923 following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and whose goal was the creation of a modern and secular nation-state.

Mr. Erdogan is increasingly allying with anti-American autocrats, in particular Russian President Vladimir Putin, notwithstanding Turkey’s membership in NATO, and the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, whom he has helped evade sanctions. Adding insult to injury, Mr. Erdogan has been holding an American citizen hostage. Andrew Brunson, pastor of a small Christian church, has been accused of “Christianization using religious beliefs and sectarian differences to divide and separate the Turkish people.” What the Turkish president apparently wants is to trade Pastor Brunson for Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, a political rival living in exile in the U.S. The fact that Mr. Gülen appears to have broken no laws is just one reason it would be awkward for American authorities to acquiesce.

As for Pakistan, it was born in 1947 as an independent homeland for Indian Muslims unwilling to live as a minority in a Hindu-majority nation. Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, envisioned a polity that would guarantee human and civil rights to all its citizens – Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Ahmadis and others. “Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy,” he said in a 1948 radio address. “It has taught equality of man, justice and fair play to everybody.”

His dream has not been realized. Pakistan has spent much of its brief history under military rule. In the 1980s, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq began a process of Islamization which, over time, has become increasingly obscurantist and intolerant.  For the past decade, civilians have been in charge and there was a peaceful transition of power in 2013. But elements within the military and intelligence services have continued to pull the strings from behind the curtain.

Farahnaz Ispahani, a former Pakistani legislator now at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, is not alone in believing that last week’s elections were marred by “media censorship, arbitrary disqualifications of leading candidates, manipulation of political parties by intelligence services, and the mainstreaming of terrorists.”

The winner was 65-year-old former cricket star Imran Khan and the political party he founded in 1996, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Ms. Ispahani characterizes Mr. Khan as “the Pakistani equivalent of Turkey’s Erdogan.” She adds that he has “earned the military’s trust.” She is not paying him compliments. The worldview of Mr. Khan, writes Sadandand Dhume, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, “blends the laziest leftist clichés with absurd Islamist fictions.” Mr. Khan “supports fundamentalist positions, including a cruel blasphemy law that leaves religious minorities vulnerable to lynch mobs.”

Mr. Khan’s “signature economic idea,” Mr. Dhume adds, “to turn Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state, belongs in a fairy tale,” given the debilitated state of the Pakistani economy after generations of mismanagement and corruption. During the campaign, Mr. Khan said: “Pakistan must detach itself from American influence and pull out of the ‘war on terror’ in order to create prosperity and achieve regional peace.”

In fact, Pakistan has long been an ambivalent participant in that war. On the one hand, we are permitted to use Pakistani territory to resupply our troops in Afghanistan. On the other hand, as Bill Roggio, my colleague at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and the editor of FDD’s Long War Journal, puts it: “Pakistan has accepted billions of American dollars, and used those funds to provide safe havens for the Taliban and other jihadist groups. Pakistan is directly responsible for the killing and wounding of thousands of American and allied soldiers.”

You’ll recall that Osama bin Laden found refuge in Pakistan until U.S. special operators arrived unannounced at his villa. The claim that no Pakistani authorities knew he was in Abbottabad – a garrison town not far from Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital — is risible. Mr. Dhume also has reported that recently “a signatory of Osama bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of jihad against ‘the Jews and Crusaders,’ joined Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.”

So to sum up: Elections in both Turkey and Pakistan have strengthened not democracy, but authoritarianism and Islamism. In both countries, freedom is not expanding but diminishing. Both countries have leaders who cannot be counted on to stand with Americans against those who might be seen as common enemies…

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

 

Contents 

On Topic Links

Election Rally Bombing in Afghanistan Heightens Security Fears: Zabihullah Ghazi and Mujib Mashal, New York Times, Oct. 2, 2018—A suicide bomber attacked an election rally on Tuesday in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, killing at least 14 people and once again highlighting security concerns as candidates prepare for an Oct. 20 parliamentary vote amid a raging war.

The Afghanistan War Has Gone on so Long that People Born after Sept. 11 Can Now Enlist: Alex Horton, Washington Post, September 12, 2018—A day after hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center towers, tore into the Pentagon and cratered a Pennsylvania field, thousands of babies were born in the United States.

Future of U.S.-Pakistan Relations Rests Upon Progress in Afghanistan, Says Top Diplomat: Carlo Muñoz, Washington Times, Oct. 3, 2018—The state of the recently contentious relationship between Pakistan and the Trump administration rests squarely on whether Washington’s new war plan for Afghanistan can turn the tide of the 17-year conflict, Pakistan’s top diplomat said.

Pakistan’s Ahmadis Fearful as Leaders Bow to Extremists: Kathy Gannon, National Post, Sept. 28, 2018—Pakistan’s embattled Ahmadiyya minority enjoyed a brief moment of hope earlier this month when one of its own, a U.S.-based Princeton economist, was appointed to an economic advisory council.

PAKISTAN’S ELECTION TAINTED BY VIOLENCE, VOTE-RIGGING, AND MILITARY INTERFERENCE

Can Imran Khan Really Transform Pakistan?: Editorial, Globe & Mail, July 31, 2018 — Imran Khan is the sort of figure who rises to political power in movies, but not often in real life.

Bailing Out Pakistan: Jed Babbin, Wahsington Times, July 29, 2018— Nuclear-armed Pakistan is not a model of stability.

Will Pakistan’s Charismatic New Premier Change the Relationship With Israel?: Charles Dunst, Times of Israel, Aug. 1, 2018 — The election of former cricket star Imran Khan as Pakistan’s new prime minister has raised eyebrows across the globe.

Trump Needs to Tell America Where this Afghanistan War is Heading: Steve Beynon, Washington Examiner, July 11, 2018— Last week, an American soldier was killed, and two of his comrades were wounded in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan.

On Topic Links

Meet the New Pakistan, a Lot Like the Old Pakistan: Daniel Ten Kate  and Chris Kay, Bloomberg, Aug. 1, 2018

Meet Pakistan’s Playboy-Turned-Prime Minister: Mary Kay Linge, New York Post, July 28, 2018

Is Afghanistan Ready for Peace?: Barnett R. Rubin, Foreign Affairs, July 30, 2018

Peace in Afghanistan More Elusive as Taliban Shrug Off Talks: Rahim Faiez, National Post, July 11, 2018

 

CAN IMRAN KHAN REALLY TRANSFORM PAKISTAN?

Editorial

Globe & Mail, July 31, 2018

Imran Khan is the sort of figure who rises to political power in movies, but not often in real life. He was Pakistan’s most famous cricketer before his retirement. He was educated at Oxford and was friends with Princess Diana. His playboy reputation made him tabloid fodder in 1980s London. The election win of such an intriguing figure is bound to raise hopes of renewal at home and abroad.

His Pakistan Movement for Justice party came up slightly short of a majority but looks likely to form a governing coalition with smaller parties. Mr. Khan is already being widely treated as prime minister-in-waiting. Can Pakistan’s presumptive new leader transform the country, as he has vowed to do, building an “Islamic welfare state,” rooting out corruption and forging peace with its many terrorist factions?

The mere fact of his election is a moderately hopeful sign. Mr. Khan is a departure from the procession of glowering generals and corrupt dynasts who usually lead Pakistan. If he assumes the premiership as expected, it will be just the second peaceful transfer of democratic power in Pakistan’s history.

But there are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about Mr. Khan’s ability to cut through the morass of Pakistani politics. Over the years, he has spoken in favour of misogynist tribal law. He also expresses guarded sympathy for the Taliban and supports Pakistan’s stringent anti-blasphemy laws. A bold modernizer, willing to take on the country’s religious establishment, he is not.

And though Mr. Khan is rarely accused of being corrupt, his recent triumph has been marred by accusations of vote-rigging and a belief that Pakistan’s powerful military establishment was behind his candidacy. It does not bode well for the integrity of the vote that Nawaz Sharif, the former PM and de facto leader of Mr. Khan’s rival party, was jailed on corruption charges shortly before the election. Mr. Khan is an impressive figure, but Pakistan’s problems run deep. Leading its government will prove to be a sticky wicket, even for a legendary cricketer.

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                                                  BAILING OUT PAKISTAN       

                                                  Jed Babbin

                                                Washington Times, July 29, 2018

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is not a model of stability. It just elected a new prime minister after a campaign that featured widespread violence and election day bombings. The apparent loser has alleged vote-rigging in favor of his opponent, who was supported by the omnipresent Pakistani army. That’s one half of the context in which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will soon consider another financial bailout for Pakistan, which has benefited from a dozen of them since the 1980s.

The other half is the fact that Pakistan’s economy is in shambles due to large-scale corruption and a growing debt crisis. The money it owes other nations and non-Pakistani entities is more than 30 percent of its GDP partly because of the extensive loans it has received from China to build parts of CPEC, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, by which China is building roads, power plants, railroads and military bases in Pakistan. Pakistan needs about another $3 billion in the next few months to avoid defaulting on loans from the IMF, the World Bank and China. The IMF will almost certainly bail Pakistan out of its financial troubles again. But should it? There are two reasons that weigh heavily against such an action.

The first is Pakistan’s continuing support of a variety of terrorist networks through its infamous Inter Service Intelligence agency, ISI. Among the terrorist groups Pakistan supports are al Qadea, the Taliban (also supported by Russia and China) and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which massacred more than 160 people in Mumbai, India, in 2008. Osama bin Laden hid for years in Abbottabad, Pakistan. It’s inconceivable that ISI wasn’t responsible for his concealment. The Trump administration has terminated military aid to Pakistan because it refuses to cease supporting terrorist networks with money, fighters and intelligence information. But there is no action we, or any other nation, can take to stop Pakistan’s religiously-based support for terrorism. Why, then, shouldn’t we block another IMF bailout?

The second reason not to bail out Pakistan is China’s growing de facto colonization of Pakistan through CPEC. According to a Wall Street Journal report, China is investing about $62 billion in Pakistan to build infrastructure projects. Three years into the program, according to that report, about half of the CPEC planned projects have begun. China is conducting what some call “debt trap diplomacy,” through which Pakistan is becoming so indebted to China that it will be compelled to follow China’s policies in Southwest Asia and beyond. In fact, the debt trap has already been sprung with the eager assistance of the Pakistan’s government, ISI and army.

Gwadar is a large Pakistani city on the Arabian Sea. Chinese officials have demanded that much of the nearby population be moved away for security reasons and to make room for thousands of Chinese military and civilian people being brought in to construct large port facilities and eventually transform Gwadar into a Chinese naval base. Pakistan’s government — dependent on its army for whatever level of stability it can achieve — will not suffer de facto colonization gladly. Despite Pakistan’s support of terrorism, China’s corrupting largesse will be able to satisfy the Pakistani army and ISI sufficiently to quell any thoughts of rebellion. In June, Defense Secretary James Mattis said of China, “The Ming Dynasty appears to be their model, albeit in a more muscular manner, demanding other nations become tribute states, kowtowing to Beijing.”

Another IMF bailout for Pakistan would be a Western contribution to China’s transformation of Pakistan into a tribute state. In these circumstances, the United States — the largest contributor to IMF — needs to voice its opposition to another bailout of Pakistan and try to prevent it. We probably can’t prevent it, but we certainly need to try. We have some leverage. According to a 2016 report by the Congressional Budget Office, U.S. obligations to the IMF were then $164 billion. But, as the CBO reported, it is very difficult to account for the actual costs we incur. Nevertheless, as the CBO wrote, because of the risk of defaulted loans U.S. contributions to IMF are at risk.

Some will argue that denying Pakistan another IMF bailout would force it to borrow more from China, accelerating its dependence on Chinese largesse and power. Unfortunately, that dependence is already established and whether IMF grants another bailout or not won’t change that. Instead, denying another IMF bailout would make Pakistan’s subservience more obvious to the Pakistani population and government. The attendant embarrassment to Pakistan could create friction between it and China, which is sufficient reason for another IMF bailout to be blocked.

Pakistan’s immediate importance to us is the logistics route it has provided for supply our and our allies’ forces in Afghanistan. China’s power over Pakistan may cause future closures. Thus, our policy toward China has to factor in the war in Afghanistan. India, which borders both Pakistan and China, is the key.

But our policy toward China is unclear. President Trump’s accelerating tariff war won’t turn it into a fair trader, far less an ally. It would be far better for the president to speak out on the dangers of China’s de facto colonization of Pakistan and other nations. If such action were coupled with a clear embrace of India, comprised of a new trade agreement and the beginning of a defense alliance, the president’s policy could help contain China’s ambitions.                 

 

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WILL PAKISTAN’S CHARISMATIC NEW PREMIER

CHANGE THE RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL?

Charles Dunst

                                                Times of Israel, Aug. 1, 2018

The election of former cricket star Imran Khan as Pakistan’s new prime minister has raised eyebrows across the globe. He has promised a “new Pakistan,” running on a light-on-policy nationalistic anti-corruption platform. Khan, 65, “is known for running a team of one, making impulsive decisions, contradicting himself and then using his enormous reserves of self-confidence and charisma to dig himself out,” Jeffrey Gettleman wrote in The New York Times.

Critics have questioned the legitimacy of his victory, as “the election was widely considered tainted” due to allegations of rigging and military interference. Some observers believe he could forge more functional relations with the United States and India — despite the US-India-Israel nexus being reviled domestically – while others are concerned he could further isolate the country from relations with the West.

Khan has also long faced anti-Semitic conspiracy theories — his first wife had Jewish roots — and since becoming a more devout Muslim in recent years has talked of making Pakistan a welfare state according to Islamic tradition. Pakistan, the world’s sixth-most populous country, has nuclear weapons and is located strategically next to India, China, Iran and Afghanistan. So what is there to make of the country’s new leader?

He was first a sports celebrity. Khan is a former cricket star who made his debut for the Pakistani national team in 1971 at 18. Upon graduating from Oxford University in England, he rejoined the national squad team, playing from 1976 to 1992 and captaining Pakistan to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup. He spent much of his time in London in the 1980s and 1990s, developing a reputation as a playboy — a past he has aimed to distance himself from. Khan frequently visited London nightclubs, describing the club Tramp as his “living room.”

He has been the victim of anti-Semitic taunts. Khan married the British socialite Jemima Goldsmith in 1995 when she was 20 and he was 42. Goldsmith is not Jewish, but has ethnic Jewish roots and recounts being “made familiar with Jewish traditions.” Khan’s Pakistani critics have long exploited her heritage to undermine his domestic political credibility. In 2013, political rivals wrote of his “Jewish connections” and spread “innuendos” about “Jewish financing.” Khan even filed a libel suit against a politician who accused him of working as an “agent of the Jewish lobby.” The railways minister, Khwaja Muhammad Asif, wrote in 2017 that “Khan’s relations with [the] Jewish lobby are no secret.”

“Imran Khan always responded to barbs about his alleged Jewish connection by saying that his ex-wife, Jemima, was brought up Anglican Christian,” Husain Haqqani, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011 and current director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, told JTA. “I wish he had stood up to anti-Semitism, but he never did.” Although Goldsmith converted to Islam before the pair’s marriage (she also learned Urdu and moved to Pakistan before the couple divorced), Khan’s “past marriage to a woman of Jewish descent is considered by many Pakistanis as an unforgivable stain on the energetically Islam-infused platform,” Paul Gasnier wrote in Haaretz.

He has distanced himself from his Western past. Khan’s recent electoral victory demonstrates that Pakistanis have either looked past or accepted the blemish of his Western past — including his marriage — or that the former cricket star was able to effectively scrub it away (or that the army was always going to pick a winner).

Khan, despite his time in England, has recently dog-whistled to hardline Islamists and has been “distancing himself from his days as a star athlete and ladies’ man.” Khan has pandered to both Islamists and secularists. He has promised to create both the “type of state that was established in Medina,” referring to the Muslim city-state from the Prophet Muhammad’s time and “the country that Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah had dreamed of,” which would have been a secular democracy.

He is critical of Israel but less so than many other leaders in the Muslim world. Khan winks abroad to both the Muslim world and the West. On Twitter, he repeatedly calls out Israeli policy toward Gaza, although in a manner more subdued than other leaders in the Muslim world, referencing “Israel’s continued oppression against Palestinians” and condemning US President Donald Trump’s move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Yet in a 2012 tweet Khan, in an apparent repudiation of anti-Semitism present in some parts of Pakistani society and perhaps with a nod to the West, showed empathy for Jewish suffering. “Just as questioning the holocaust is painful to the Jews, & we respect this,” he wrote, “so abuse of the Prophet (PBUH) is even more painful to Muslims.”

Experts doubt he will change Pakistan’s official stance toward Israel. In the glow of victory, Khan has made overtures toward the US and India — two countries that, along with Israel, form the nexus that Pakistan’s Senate chairman once called a “major threat” to the Muslim world. While he has not directly commented on Israel, Pakistan has a history of semi-secret relations with the country despite an official boycott of the Jewish state and local derision of a supposed Zionist-Hindu conspiracy.

In 2005, then-Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom met his Pakistani counterpart, Khurshid Kasuri, in Istanbul, Turkey. Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf attended an American Jewish Congress dinner in New York as the guest of honor. In 2009, the head of Pakistan’s spy agency contacted Israeli officials to warn of potential attacks on Israeli targets in India. And in 2011, Israel was rumored to have exported military technology to Pakistan.

Pakistani journalist Kamran Yousaf, writing in 2018 in The Express Tribune, the country’s New York Times-affiliated newspaper, said that “Diplomacy is the art of making new friends and avoiding confrontation with countries with which you don’t have the best of relations.” Pakistan’s policy toward Israel has historically followed the Muslim world’s boycott of the Jewish state — an icy diplomatic reality that seems to be thawing. “Proponents of that policy have now themselves embraced the change,” Yousaf wrote. “Saudi Arabia is the prime example.”

Ambassador Haqqani, however, believes that Khan will neither build upon these previous relations nor follow Saudi Arabia’s lead in thawing frozen relations with Israel. “His political stance has been anti-Israel,” Haqqani told JTA. “He also has to take into account the fact that Islamist groups got 5 million votes in the election that got him 16 million votes. Given his own Islamic-nationalist rhetoric, I do not see Imran Khan as the man who would reach out to Israel on behalf of Pakistan. But miracles can always happen.” Christine Fair, provost’s distinguished associate professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, told JTA that any opening to Israel will be the decision of the army, not Khan’s, referencing the Pakistani military’s vast power. “To my knowledge,” she said, “there is no such interest in the army.”

Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, expressed similar pessimism. “Khan may consider himself a maverick and a bold reformer willing to go where others haven’t gone before him — such as in his pledge to eliminate corruption — but I don’t think he’ll go out of his way to reach out to Israel,” he told JTA. “Not that he’d rule out exchanges and relations, but the idea of trying to push for official relations — that’s a tall order, and I just don’t see it happening.” Kugelman said, however, that for all the obvious political and religious differences between the two countries, they share something fundamental in common in that they are religious states.

“Pakistan’s military and civilian elites — including Khan — all have ties to the West, and when you have ties to the West, the chances are that you’ll have some type of exposure to Israel or to Jews, or both,” he said. “So none of these [previous] relations are surprising.” “The big question is if there will ever be a Pakistani leader who tries to push for a normalized relationship with Israel. If it happens, I doubt Khan will be the one to make that push.”…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]       

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TRUMP NEEDS TO TELL AMERICA

WHERE THIS AFGHANISTAN WAR IS HEADING

Steve Beynon

Washington Examiner, July 11, 2018

Last week, an American soldier was killed, and two of his comrades were wounded in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan. These casualties ought to spur the Trump administration to ask exactly what we’re doing in that country, nearly 17 years after we launched our post-9/11 attack on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. I have a personal occasion for a moment of reflection. This week marks 10 years I have given to the Army, some of which I spent in combat in Afghanistan. I do not regret a single day of service. But we are at war, and all signs point to the government forgetting that and the American people don’t really know what we’re fighting for.

“I say with confidence, because of all of you and all those that have gone before and our allies and partners, I believe victory is closer than ever before,” Vice President Mike Pence said addressing troops in Bagram, Afghanistan in December. The sentiment was uplifting, but Pence wasn’t able to point to any recent military victories, or any concrete improvements. In fact, the White House simply hasn’t explained what our military is trying to accomplish in that volatile country where its sons and daughters are still coming home in coffins or without limbs.

President Trump seems to have been more occupied with his war on the press than the war in Afghanistan, only mentioning the country once this year on Twitter in January. The only major action the administration has reported to the public is deploying the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), which the Department of Defense claims killed 94 Islamic State fighters including four commanders.

Like many of the actions of the administration, the bombing was solid TV and made us feel good. But it’s a reminder that Afghanistan is not like Nazi-occupied France in 1944: there’s no town to take, no single figurehead to take prisoner, and no capital city to bomb. In fact, we have no measurable gains in Afghanistan. It’s time for the administration to shoot straight with the American people. Right now, it is difficult getting an accurate count on the number of troops deployed. It looks like the administration is concealing its plans in Afghanistan, trying to sweep this conflict under the rug to keep it out of the public eye. Or worse, there is no plan for this war.

Some of the questions the Trump administration need to answer: Towards what end are these troops dying in Afghanistan? Is the massive federal spending in this conflict worth it? What does victory look like? A full withdrawal from the region would almost certainly lead to the collapse of Afghanistan’s government. So is the U.S. committed to war in Afghanistan for a hundred years. If so, that fact needs to be spelled out so Congress and the public are dealing with reality.

And if Afghanistan falls: Does that materially affect American interests? It is a brutal question, but we need to decide if we’re staying handcuffed to this country or not. One study shows the Taliban control 70 percent of Afghanistan, some of which I patrolled half a decade ago. Soldiers are still are getting into gunfights on the same mountains I did years ago. There’s no clear evidence killing a gunman in Helmand Province makes me safer going to Home Depot in Virginia.

I am proud of my service, and I feel my friends and I did a lot of good work in Afghanistan. But there’s potentially poor management on the Department of Defense’s end when places where I slept are in worse condition today than they were years ago. This feels like less of a war with great strategic minds behind the scenes and more of a game of kick-the-can in which leaders today hope someone emerges down the road or dynamics change in a way that brings a natural conclusion to the war. The burden on the administration’s shoulders is to give the public an acceptable explanation as to why we’re at the point where a father and son can be deployed to the same war and with little to show for it.

Contents

On Topic Links

Meet the New Pakistan, a Lot Like the Old Pakistan: Daniel Ten Kate  and Chris Kay, Bloomberg, Aug. 1, 2018—“We will run Pakistan like it has never been run before,” said Imran Khan during his first televised address after his party’s decisive election win on July 25. He did so below a picture of a young Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the nation’s revered founder when it won independence from the British Raj in 1947.

Meet Pakistan’s Playboy-Turned-Prime Minister: Mary Kay Linge, New York Post, July 28, 2018—Cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan, the former playboy who counted Princess Diana as a close friend, is poised to become Pakistan’s next prime minister. “We’re going to run the country like it’s never been run before,” he declared ahead of Saturday’s early election results.

Is Afghanistan Ready for Peace?: Barnett R. Rubin, Foreign Affairs, July 30, 2018—We used to appreciate the hard work of the United States for development in Afghanistan,” Iqbal Khyber, a 27-year-old medical student from Helmand Province, told me in Kabul on July 2. “Unfortunately, things happened.

Peace in Afghanistan More Elusive as Taliban Shrug Off Talks: Rahim Faiez, National Post, July 11, 2018—With the Taliban shrugging off the Afghan government’s latest offers of a cease-fire and negotiations, peace seems as elusive as it has been for decades in this war-battered country, both for troops on the front lines and for civilians facing frequent attacks.

PAKISTAN, A KEY REGIONAL ALLY OF U.S., CONTINUES TO SUPPORT TERRORISM IN AFGHANISTAN

Pakistan, Seeing New Pressure from the West, Moves Against a Militant Group: Saeed Shah, Ian Talley and Dion Nissenbaum, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 14, 2018

Can the United States Change Pakistan’s Behaviour?: Brahma Chellaney, Globe and Mail, Jan. 31, 2018— U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent decision to freeze some $2-billion (U.S.) in security assistance to Pakistan as punishment for the country’s refusal to crack down on transnational terrorist groups is a step in the right direction.
Rescinding Aid to Pakistan: Rachel Bovard, Real Clear World, Jan. 19, 2018— Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, multiple administrations have insisted upon recognizing Pakistan as a crucial ally in U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts.
The U.S. Needs to Rethink What Winning in Afghanistan Looks Like: Nicholas Grossman, National Review, Feb. 7, 2018— Americans want foreign military campaigns to go smoothly…
Protecting Afghan Women Is a National Security Issue: Abigail R. Esman, IPT News, Feb. 23, 2018— There was the woman whose husband sliced off her genitalia, and then reached inside her with his hand, damaging her inner organs.

On Topic Links

Pakistan, Seeing New Pressure from the West, Moves Against a Militant Group: Saeed Shah, Ian Talley and Dion Nissenbaum, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 14, 2018
Pressure Pays: Trump’s Threats to Pakistan: Meira Svirsky, Clarion Project, Feb. 21, 2018
Pakistani Islamism Flourishes in America: Sam Westrop, National Review, Jan. 24, 2018
On Afghanistan, There’s No Way Out: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Aug. 24, 2017

CAN THE UNITED STATES CHANGE PAKISTAN’S BEHAVIOUR?
Brahma Chellaney
Globe and Mail, Jan. 31, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent decision to freeze some $2-billion (U.S.) in security assistance to Pakistan as punishment for the country’s refusal to crack down on transnational terrorist groups is a step in the right direction. But more steps are needed.

The United States has plenty of incentive to put pressure on Pakistan, a country that has long pretended to be an ally, even as it continues to aid the militant groups fighting and killing U.S. soldiers in neighbouring Afghanistan. In fact, it is partly because of that aid Afghanistan is a failing state, leaving the United States mired in the longest war in its history. More than 16 years after the United States invaded Afghanistan, its capital, Kabul, has come under siege, exemplified by the recent terrorist attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel and the suicide bombing, using an explosives-laden ambulance, in the city centre. In recent months, the United States has launched a major air offensive to halt the rapid advance of the Afghan Taliban. The United States has now carried out more air strikes since last August than in 2015 and 2016 combined.

Yet neither the air blitz nor the Trump administration’s deployment of 3,000 additional U.S. troops can reverse the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. To achieve that, Pakistan would have to dismantle the cross-border sanctuaries used by the Taliban and its affiliate, the Haqqani network, as well as their command-and-control operations, which are in Pakistani territory. The problem is that Pakistan’s powerful military, whose generals dictate terms to a largely impotent civilian government, seems committed to protecting, and even nurturing, terrorists on Pakistani soil. Only those militants who threaten Pakistan are targeted by the country’s rogue Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

Far from holding Pakistan’s generals accountable for the American blood on their hands, the United States has provided them large amounts of funding – so much, in fact, that Pakistan has been one of the United States’ largest aid recipients. Even when the United States found Osama bin Laden, after a 10-year hunt, holed up in a compound next to Pakistan’s main military academy, it did not meaningfully alter its carrot-only strategy. This has enabled the military to tighten its grip on Pakistan further, frustrating domestic efforts to bring about a genuine democratic transition. Making matters worse, the United States has dissuaded its ally India – a major target of Pakistan-supported terrorists – from imposing any sanctions on the country. Instead, successive U.S. administrations have pressured India to engage diplomatically with Pakistan.

This approach has emboldened Pakistan-based terrorists to carry out cross-border attacks on targets from Mumbai to Kashmir. As for the United States, the White House’s new National Security Strategy confirms that the United States “continues to face threats from transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan.” This conclusion echoes then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s warning in 2009 that Pakistan “poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world.”

Against this background, the Trump administration’s acknowledgment of U.S. policy failure in Pakistan is good news. But history suggests that simply suspending security aid – economic assistance and military training are set to continue – will not be enough to bring about meaningful change in Pakistan. Another step the United States could take would be to label Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism. If the United States prefers not to do so, it should at least strip Pakistan of its status as a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, ending its preferential access to U.S. weapons and technologies. Moreover, the United States should impose targeted sanctions, including asset freezes, on senior military officers who maintain particularly close ties to terrorists.

Finally, the United States should take advantage of its enduring position as Pakistan’s largest export market to tighten the economic screws on the cash-strapped country. Since 2013, Pakistan has attempted to offset the sharp decline in its foreign-exchange reserves by raising billions of dollars in dollar-denominated debt with 10-year bonds. Pakistan’s efforts to stave off default create leverage that the United States should use. Likewise, Pakistan agreed to privatize 68 state-run companies, in exchange for $6.7-billion in credit from the International Monetary Fund. If the United States extended financial and trade sanctions to multilateral lending, and suspended supplies of military spare parts, it would gain another effective means of bringing Pakistan to heel.

To be sure, Pakistan could respond to such sanctions by blocking America’s overland access to Afghanistan, thereby increasing the cost of resupplying U.S. forces by up to 50 per cent. But, as Pakistan learned in 2011-12, such a move would hurt its own economy, especially its military-dominated trucking industry. Meanwhile, the added cost to the United States would be lower than U.S. military reimbursements to Pakistan in the last year.

If Pakistan is going to abandon its double game of claiming to be a U.S. ally while harbouring terrorists, the United States will need to stop rewarding it for offering, as Mr. Trump put it, “nothing but lies & deceit.” More than that, the United States will need to punish Pakistan for its duplicity. And U.S. policy makers must act soon, or an increasingly fragile Pakistan could well be transformed from a state sponsor of terrorism into a state sponsored by terrorists.
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RESCINDING AID TO PAKISTAN
Rachel Bovard
Real Clear World, Jan. 19, 2018

Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, multiple administrations have insisted upon recognizing Pakistan as a crucial ally in U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts. Yet 16 years later, the United States has very little to show for it. Instead, Pakistan has continued to undermine U.S. interests in the region and around the world in almost every conceivable way.

The list of their failures is long. Osama bin Laden, for years the most hunted man in the world, was killed by U.S. Navy Seals almost right next door to the Pakistani military academy, and Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a U.S. airstrike on Pakistani soil in May of 2016. Since late last year, Pakistan has repeatedly refused to grant the U.S. access to a Haqqani network operative — one reportedly with information about U.S. hostages. Pakistani support for the Taliban is enabling the expansion of the Islamic State and al Qaeda militants across Afghanistan. Moreover, Pakistan continues to bankroll insurgents across the region, even as it receives around $1 billion a year from U.S. taxpayers for supposedly combatting those same militants.

Meanwhile, Washington has forked over approximately $20 billion in military aid and equipment to Pakistan, and for what? Pakistan has cashed that American money to arm, fund, and protect the very same militants who have killed thousands of American soldiers, contractors, and civilians in Iraq. In a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, former top Bush diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad called Pakistan’s actions a “perfidious and dangerous double game,” with the country “portray[ing] itself as a U.S. partner, yet support[ing] the Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network.”

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) summed up the situation thusly: “Billions of dollars have been spent, and far too little change has occurred in Pakistan. It seems like paying the mafia.” This is particularly true when one considers how this aid has enriched the Pakistani military at the expense of the rest of the country. Pakistan’s powerful military plays a massive role in domestic affairs, where, in addition to military installments, they own hotels, shopping centers, shipping center, insurance companies, banks, farms, and an airline. According to Pakistani journalist Ayesha Siddiqa, the military is worth more than $20 billion.

It’s little wonder how the Pakistani military became so wealthy on America’s dime. A 2008 assessment from American officials in Islamabad revealed that as much as 70 percent of the $5.4 billion in U.S. assistance to Pakistan had been “misspent.” Pakistan, for its part, continues to perpetuate the myth that it is “too dangerous to fail,” arguing that repercussions of cutting off aid could be severe. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, C. Christine Fair and Sumit Ganguly challenge these assumptions, particularly that Pakistan lacks the ability to rein in the various terrorist organizations operating within their borders.

This is nonsense, as the authors point out. Not only does the Pakistani military know these organizations inside and out, having spawned and organized many of them, it has previously shown its willingness to crush insurgents with efficiency. “There is no reason,” the authors argue, “to believe that Islamabad could not do so again were it so inclined.” Furthermore, even if Pakistan fails to cooperate after a cutoff of aid, the U.S. has other, more drastic points of leverage it can utilize. Rescinding Pakistan’s designation as a “major non-NATO ally” would strip it of even more financial and military benefits, not to mention diplomatic prestige. Increased sanctions like those contemplated by the White House this summer are also an option.

For years, the U.S. has provided Pakistan with billions of dollars in a vain effort to gain cooperation. That naiveté—assuming Islamabad would act against its own perceived vital interests for billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars—has resulted in thwarted military endeavors and lost American lives. It is long past time for Washington elites to recognize the central role interests play in how other countries behave. President Trump’s recent announcement that his administration will cut off $255 million in aid is a welcome start. Members of Congress are also engaging on this important issue: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has long supported the elimination of aid to duplicitous allies like Pakistan, has introduced a bill to do so.

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan must improve if it is going to be maintained. The United States can ill afford to send billions of dollars to a country which actively undermines our interests. Shrewd diplomacy should replace bribery. In wrapping up his testimony before the Foreign Affairs Committee examining the U.S. policy toward Paskistan in 2016, former U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was asked if he believed the U.S. had been manipulated in its decades long relationship with Pakistan. “To use an undiplomatic term,” he said, “we have been patsies.”
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THE U.S. NEEDS TO RETHINK WHAT
WINNING IN AFGHANISTAN LOOKS LIKE
Nicholas Grossman
National Review, Feb. 7, 2018

Americans want foreign military campaigns to go smoothly: Deploy, sacrifice, win, leave. And if winning isn’t in the cards, then what’s the sacrifice for? Leave as soon as possible. By that logic, the United States is losing in Afghanistan — or at least not winning — and should abandon the effort. But a simple win–loss dynamic is the wrong way to think about that 16-year-old war. America’s not in Afghanistan to win. It’s there to hold the line.

For many Americans, especially older ones, the win–loss dichotomy boils down to World War II vs. Vietnam. World War II was the good war: well-defined, righteous goals, ending in clear, unambiguous victory. After winning, most Americans came home. Those who stayed to oversee reconstruction in Germany and Japan faced minimal violence. Vietnam was the bad war: ambiguous goals of uncertain importance, dragging on at considerable cost before withdrawal. The United States sacrificed immense blood and treasure, but the Communists took over anyway.

Through this lens, Afghanistan is Vietnam. Though responding to September 11 was righteous, the war’s goals were never especially clear and have long since become ambiguous. Within months of invading in October 2011, American-led forces defeated the Taliban government and dislodged al-Qaeda. Then the goals shifted. To prevent another transnational terrorist group from using Afghanistan as a base of operations, the United States  — with support from allies and the broader international community — propped up the democratically elected Afghan government. The plan was for coalition troops to fight insurgents and train local forces, providing domestic security until the Afghans could take over.

It’s been 16 years, and that goal is nowhere in sight. The Taliban and other insurgent networks remain active, with an open physical presence in over two-thirds of Afghanistan, fully controlling about 4 percent. And ISIS recently gained a foothold. In the last two weeks, four attacks in the national capital, Kabul, killed over 130, including eleven at a military base. The Taliban claimed two of the attacks, and ISIS claimed the other two. This violence indicates the government is not in control of the country.

Meanwhile, Pakistan continues playing both sides. The Haqqani network, the Pakistani Taliban, and other insurgents operating in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border, have killed thousands of Pakistanis. But while the Pakistani military fights those groups, elements of the ISI — the country’s powerful intelligence agency — support, or at least turn a blind eye to, FATA-based militants who focus on Afghanistan. Without a path to victory, many Americans wonder why the United States should keep spending money and risking lives. Perhaps it is time to withdraw.

It’s important to learn lessons from the past, but every war is different, and Afghanistan is not Vietnam. From a humanitarian perspective, the Taliban are worse than the North Vietnamese, especially regarding treatment of women. And the Taliban’s religious fundamentalism is less popular in Afghanistan than Communism was in 1960s and ’70s Vietnam.

However, using force abroad requires a compelling national interest. Vietnam did not threaten American security and, though it may not have been easy to see at the time, withdrawing did not put American interests in danger. The theory that Communism would sweep across southeast Asia proved incorrect. Though the Communist party remains in power today, Vietnam evolved with China into a sort of state-managed capitalism, rather than revolution-exporting Communism. And Vietnam is now one of the world’s most pro-American countries, with over 75 percent holding a favorable opinion of the United States.

As with the Vietcong, the Taliban and other Afghan insurgents do not directly threaten American security. But the similarities end there. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Taliban willingly hosted al-Qaeda, which proved itself a threat to American security. If the Taliban retakes power, it could allow transnational jihadists to set up shop. After the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, the Vietnamese Communist party took control and maintained internal security. But American withdrawal from Afghanistan could easily lead to prolonged civil war. The Soviet Union’s withdrawal in 1989 sparked a seven-year conflict the Taliban eventually won, leaving pockets of territory ungoverned. As in Syria, the chaos would play to ISIS’s advantage. And Vietnam didn’t have a neighbor like Pakistan.

Pakistan is the world’s least stable nuclear-armed country. In the 21st century, insurgents and terrorists have killed over 29,000 Pakistanis, mostly civilians. The country became a military dictatorship in a 1999 coup — a year after its first nuclear test — and then returned to democracy in 2008. But Yousaf Raza Gillani, the first post-dictatorship prime minister, lost his position because of contempt of court, and the second, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, was banned from seeking reelection in 2017 because of corruption. The military owns businesses, which provide independent sources of funding that limit civilian control. And, most concerning, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, A. Q. Kahn, ran a black-market proliferation ring until 2004, selling information to North Korea, Iran, and Libya.

Pakistan’s stability is in America’s interest. If the government collapses, terrorists could steal a nuclear weapon or radioactive material that could be used in a dirty bomb. Because Afghan and Pakistani insurgent networks overlap, the war in Afghanistan is partially about denying sanctuary to militants that attack Pakistan…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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PROTECTING AFGHAN WOMEN IS A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE
Abigail R. Esman
IPT News, Feb. 23, 2018

There was the woman whose husband sliced off her genitalia, and then reached inside her with his hand, damaging her inner organs. There was the woman whose husband cut off her ear. More commonly, there are the rapes, the forced marriages, and the mob beatings, such as the one last December: video shows a woman dressed in a blue burqa, being beaten by crowds of men – including family members – as onlookers call out “Allahu Akbar!”

Such is life for women in Afghanistan, where an estimated 87 percent of them have experienced physical or sexual abuse, or both. Their stories are part of what has made Afghanistan the worst country in the world for women. In the weeks following America’s first attacks in Afghanistan during the fall of 2001, images of burqa-clad women tearing off the imprisoning garments filled TV news reports. With tremendous satisfaction, Americans praised themselves for beating back the Taliban – the terror-supporting militia that not only ruled much of the country, but had harbored Osama bin Laden – and for liberating Afghan women. The images of them without their burqas were our proof: America had once more helped forge a victory for the oppressed. Except, as it turned out, we hadn’t.

While the Taliban no longer hold power over many of the regions it ruled before the American invasion, the group still maintains control over several rural areas of the country, as do other militia groups which impose similar constraints on women. Moreover, low female literacy rates have ranked Afghan fourth on the list of 10 worst places for girls’ education, according to a report from global anti-poverty group ONE. The other nine countries are all in Africa. In rural regions, 90 percent of women are illiterate, versus 63 percent of men – numbers that are deeply disturbing for both genders, since, as UNESCO and others have observed, literacy is directly related to political empowerment. But the problem particularly affects women, and is arguably a strategic measure: in the words of former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, “by acquiring literacy, women become more economically self-reliant and more actively engaged in their country’s social, political and cultural life.”

The refusal to educate women represents, in other words, not just a systemic oppression, but enslavement. Which is why the abuse of women includes depriving them of schooling – and why such abuse in Afghanistan and other war- torn countries like Iraq, the Congo, Somalia and Sudan, should be of profound concern to Americans and the West.

Researchers, particularly Valerie M. Hudson, director of the Womanstats project and George W. Bush Chair of the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University, have shown definitive links between the societies that produce terrorists and the rate of domestic abuse and the oppression of women. As Hudson puts it in her book Sex And World Peace, “states characterized by norms of gender and ethnic inequality as well as human rights abuses are more likely to become involved in militarized interstate disputes, to be the aggressors in international disputes, and to rely on force when involved in an international dispute…. International security cannot be attained without gender equality.”…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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On Topic Links

Pakistan, Seeing New Pressure from the West, Moves Against a Militant Group: Saeed Shah, Ian Talley and Dion Nissenbaum, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 14, 2018 —Pakistan is hoping to head off an attempt by the Trump administration to exert further pressure over terrorism by putting the country on a global terror financing watch list, according to a senior Pakistani official.

Pressure Pays: Trump’s Threats to Pakistan: Meira Svirsky, Clarion Project, Feb. 21, 2018—Dear President Trump, Kudos on standing up to Pakistan and its support of terror. I’m sure you took notice of what just happened after you tweeted your first communique of 2018…

Pakistani Islamism Flourishes in America: Sam Westrop, National Review, Jan. 24, 2018—On January 1, President Trump tweeted that Pakistan gives “safe haven to the terrorists.” The State Department subsequently suspended over a billion dollars of security assistance and military funding to the country.

On Afghanistan, There’s No Way Out: Bret Stephens, New York Times, Aug. 24, 2017—When it comes to Afghanistan, we’ve tried everything. The lesson is: Nothing works. We’ve tried “light footprint.” From the initial defeat of the Taliban in 2001 until 2007, monthly U.S. troop numbers never exceeded 25,000. Result: a reconstituted Taliban, their leadership secure in Pakistan, made inroads into more than half of Afghanistan.

TRUMP’S AFGHAN PLAN: “WE ARE NOT NATION BUILDING AGAIN. WE ARE KILLING TERRORISTS”

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

 

 

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. 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.]

 

 

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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.            

 

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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: 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.                  

 

Contents

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.

 

 

                                   

Contents

 

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.

 

 

WHILE AFGHANISTAN DRIFTS TOWARD COLLAPSE, TALIBAN LEADERS OPERATE SAFELY FROM PAKISTAN

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RECENT KABUL BOMBING UNDERSCORES CONTINUING DEADLINESS OF AFGHAN WAR

The Never-Ending War in Kabul: Thomas Joscelyn, Weekly Standard, May 31, 2017 — A suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives near the German Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, at 8:22 local time this morning.

What Does America Consider Success in Afghanistan?: Luke Coffey, National Interest, June 1, 2017— Wednesday’s terror attack in Kabul is a stark reminder of how brutal the war in Afghanistan still is.

Trump and the Foreign-Policy Establishment: Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, May 16, 2017 — Speaking to a number of governors in February, Donald Trump unburdened himself, “We have to win. We have to start winning wars again. . . . We never win and we don’t fight to win. We’ve either got to win or don’t fight it at all.”

Iran, Fighting to the Last Afghan: Michael Rubin, Commentary, Apr. 3, 2017— During the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and Cuba regularly used foreign proxies to fight their battles.

 

On Topic Links

 

Deadly Kabul Bombing the Latest in a Raging Afghanistan War: Mark MacKinnon, Globe and Mail, May 31, 2017

Afghanistan Blames Pakistan for Planning Deadly Kabul Attack: Ruchi Kumar, Foreign Policy, June 1, 2017

It’s Time to Give Up On Saving Afghanistan: Ralph Peters, New York Post, June 5, 2017

Afghanistan, the Sequel. Why Would Canada Return to a War it Would Rather Forget?: Andrew Potter, National Post, May 19, 2017

 

 

THE NEVER-ENDING WAR IN KABUL

Thomas Joscelyn

Weekly Standard, May 31, 2017

 

A suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives near the German Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, at 8:22 local time (May 31). The death toll has steadily risen in the hours since. The Afghan government says that at least 90 people were killed and 400 more wounded, according to the Associated Press. That makes the attack one of the deadliest in the history of the Afghan War–if not the deadliest. And it underscores the severity of the threat to the Afghan capital at a time when the Trump administration is debating what policy course to pursue next.

 

The Taliban was quick to deny any involvement. Afghan officials are blaming the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, which is part of the Taliban's coalition, anyway. And the group is certainly capable of executing such an attack. However, even though the group has been responsible for many civilian casualties, it is sensitive to the charge that jihadists indiscriminately kill men, women, and children. Taliban leaders, like their comrades in al Qaeda, have concluded that such operations limit their ability to appeal to a broader swath of the population.

 

The Islamic State, on the other hand, doesn't hesitate to kill anyone it deems to be an apostate or infidel. The difference is best illustrated in how the two rivals, who frequently fight one another, treat Shiites. In years past, the Taliban committed war crimes against Afghanistan's Hazaras, who are predominately Shiite. Two of the "Taliban Five" commanders held at Guantanamo until May 2014, when they were exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, were suspected of murdering "thousands of Shiites." Yet, the Taliban has been more restrained when it comes to anti-Shiite violence in recent years. This created a market opportunity within the jihadist community for the Islamic State, which has a fetish for Shiite blood. Since some Sunnis accuse Shiites of adhering to a deviant version of Islam, they see no need for restraint. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's Sunni loyalists cater to this fetish in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. It is a blood sport for them. And this has helped drive up the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

 

In fact, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the "single deadliest conflict-related incident for civilians" in Afghanistan since 2001 came on July 23, 2016, when two ISIS suicide bombers struck a what the U.N. described as a peaceful demonstration in Kabul's Deh Mazang Square. The terrorists in Deh Mazang deliberately targeted members of Afghanistan's Hazara minority. The so-called caliphate claimed the massacre was retaliation for Afghan Shiites participating in the Syrian war on the side of Bashar al-Assad's regime and Iran. UNAMA "documented 85 civilian deaths and the injury of 413 others" from the heinous assault. Incredibly, this is less than the casualty figures currently being reported out of Afghanistan after Wednesday's's bombing.

 

UNAMA has been recording civilian casualties, including both deaths and injuries, since 2009. According to its annual report, 2016 was worse than any of the preceding seven years, in no small part due to the surge of violence in Kabul. 11,418 people were killed or wounded in 2016 across Afghanistan. (By comparison, 5,969 civilian casualties were recorded in 2009.) Afghanistan's south was still the most dangerous area, but the country's "central region," which includes Kabul, was not far behind. UNAMA found a 34 percent increase in civilian casualties in the central region in 2016, as compared to 2015, "due to suicide and complex attacks in Kabul city."

 

ISIS's Afghan arm, known as Wilayah Khorasan (or the Khorasan "province," also known as ISIS-K), slaughtered Shiites in Kabul in the months after the assault on Deh Mazang Square. The group claimed responsibility for two additional suicide attacks at Shiite mosques in October and November 2016, killing at least 59 people and injuring 134 others. Wilayah Khorasan claimed that the victims deserved to die because they were "polytheists." ISIS continued to launch high-profile operations in Kabul during the first five months of 2017. And their operations haven't solely targeted Shiites.

 

In February, the group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing outside of Afghanistan's supreme court, killing at least 20 people. In March, a suicide assault team raided the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital in Kabul. The hospital is Afghanistan's largest for military personnel and their families. The jihadists dressed like medical staff in order to confuse their victims. Dozens more were killed or wounded. Then, in May, another ISIS suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy near the U.S. Embassy, killing at least eight civilians in the process.

 

The U.S. has been leading a counterterrorism campaign against the Islamic State's Wilayah Khorasan in eastern Afghanistan since early last year. The territory controlled by Baghdadi's goons in Nangarhar province has dwindled. But the fighting has been intense; three American servicemembers were killed in April. And even as the U.S. and its Afghan allies have whittled away at the jihadists' turf, they have retained the ability to launch mass casualty attacks in Kabul and elsewhere. The suicide bomber responsible for this morning's atrocity made it to the border of Kabul's highly-secure "Green Zone," which is supposed to be safe for foreign diplomats and media personnel. Afghan security forces prevented him from entering, but that provides little comfort to the victims and their families.

 

While Wilayah Khorasan remains a potent threat, we should not forget that the Taliban-al Qaeda axis is a far bigger danger to Afghanistan's long-term security. The Taliban-led insurgency contests, controls or influences more than 160 of Afghanistan's districts, according to data compiled by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR), which reports to Congress. Wilayah Khorasan currently controls only a handful of districts, at most. And a return to Taliban rule would surely usher in new barbarities, despite the organization's current, tactical restraint in conducting operations. The Trump administration has yet to decide on a strategy for the Afghan war. Today's bombing in Kabul is a reminder that one is sorely needed–quickly.                                                               

 

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WHAT DOES AMERICA CONSIDER SUCCESS IN AFGHANISTAN?

Luke Coffey

National Interest, June 1, 2017

 

Wednesday’s terror attack in Kabul is a stark reminder of how brutal the war in Afghanistan still is. A suicide truck bomber drove near the German Embassy in Wazir Akbar Khan, the diplomatic heart of Kabul, and then detonated his bomb amid the morning rush-hour traffic. The blast killed at least ninety civilians and wounded another four hundred. This wasn’t the first such attack in Afghanistan, and it won’t be the last. After almost sixteen years of war in Afghanistan, it is only natural to wonder: how do we know if we are winning?

 

Winston Churchill, while serving as a young officer fighting the Pashtuns in the 19th century, explained the difficulty of winning the type of war he faced then and that the United States faces now in Afghanistan: “There are no general actions on a great scale, no brilliant successes, no important surrenders, no chance for a coup de theatre. It is just a rough hard job, which must be carried through. The war is one of small incidents. The victory must be looked for in the results.”

 

Some things never change. What was true in 1897 is as true in 2017. When NATO ended its combat operations in Afghanistan and transitioned into a train, advise and assist role in 2015, the usual fanfare associated with victory in war was notably absent. There were no triumphal parades, no formal surrender ceremony, and no heroic march into an enemy’s capital. This is not the Afghan way of war.

 

In late 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks, there were two main goals in Afghanistan. First, to deny Al Qaeda a safe haven from which to plan, train and launch terrorist attacks on a global scale. Secondly, to remove the Taliban regime from power as punishment for not cooperating with the international community and for harboring terrorism—a sort of twenty-first century version of a nineteenth-century punitive raid on the frontier. Both were accomplished with relative speed— it can even be argued that this was achieved by the summer of 2002.

 

As the years went by, the explanation for what U.S. forces were doing in Afghanistan shifted from America’s raw national-security needs to vague notions of nation building and “bringing democracy.” Consequently, the inability to produce what public opinion considers tangible and achievable results sixteen years on has disappointed many. Since our military intervention in 2001, we have focused on the quixotic goals of creating “a strong central government” and a “pluralistic society” in Afghanistan. We have tried accomplishing these goals by “holding free and fair” elections, “tackling corruption,” and building the “institutions of democracy.” If we fail to achieve these goals, we are presented with doomsday scenarios of “ungoverned spaces,” the Taliban “back in power,” and the establishment of new terrorists “safe havens.”

 

But this black-and-white view of the situation doesn’t work in a place like Afghanistan. It is a place with many shades of gray. There is a complex middle ground in Afghanistan, and this is where we are today—and where we will likely be for the foreseeable future. Few in the United States believe that we have been defeated in Afghanistan. They just think we haven’t met the objectives they expected to be achieved—and that what we have achieved has taken too long and cost too much. This is not an unreasonable view. We have been fighting in Afghanistan for almost sixteen years and will likely have some form of military involvement there for at least sixteen more. An eighteen-year-old soldier serving in Afghanistan today was only two years old at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Thousands of U.S. troops have been killed and wounded and just shy of $1 trillion has been spent.

 

For years, especially in the earlier days of the war, successive U.S. commanders thought that if one more road could be paved, one more school built, or one more hospital constructed, America could leave Afghanistan just that much better. Over the years, this focus on nation-building—however well intended it might have been—resulted in expectations set so high in Afghanistan that even obvious successes on the security front were not considered good enough. This created an impossible situation for the U.S. military. With the lofty goals of nation building defining our success in the early days, the only thing most people see today in Afghanistan is failure.

 

However, a closer look at the situation shows that much has actually been achieved. After the successful targeting of Taliban leaders, combined with a robust counterinsurgency campaign over the years, the group as a national movement has degenerated into several smaller, weaker and localized insurgencies—each with a different set of grievances and goals. Even with today’s horrific attack in Kabul, the level of violence in Afghanistan is nowhere close to its peak in 2011–12. Al Qaeda, which once used Afghan territory with impunity, no longer enjoys a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to plan and launch terror attacks on a global scale. The threat posed to Afghanistan by the Islamic State isn’t even close to being in the same league as the Taliban, and pales in comparison to the terror group’s other affiliates in Syria, Libya and Yemen. No major terrorist attack originating from Afghanistan has been successful in the United States since 2001.

 

The Taliban that rolled into Kandahar in 1994 with tanks and planes is a shadow of its former self today. In 2001, outside of a small rump of territory run by the Northern Alliance in northeast Afghanistan, the Taliban controlled the entire country. Today, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s most recent quarterly report to Congress, the Taliban has “control or influence” in only eleven out of 407 districts across Afghanistan, equaling only 9 percent of the country’s population. By contrast, 66 percent of Afghanistan’s population live under the “control or influence” of the Afghan government. The remaining 25 percent of the population lives in “contested” areas. After sixteen years of warfare, maybe we should come to terms with the fact that until there is a genuine political settlement between all warring parties and Pakistan stops providing succor to the Taliban, this might be as good as it’s going to get.

 

So what does success look like in Afghanistan? Success in Afghanistan is not when 100 percent of its districts are under the complete control of the Afghan government or when there are no more suicide bombings. Nor is success in Afghanistan achieved when every road is paved, every girl goes to school, or everyone gets the right to vote. These things are very important in themselves, and we should aspire to them, but they are neither the reasons why we went to Afghanistan nor the reasons why we should remain there. Success is achieved when there is a stable enough Afghanistan—when it is able to manage its own internal and external security to a degree that stops interference from outside powers, allowing the country to resist the establishment of terror bases that were there before. Nothing more and nothing less…

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

                                                                       

 

Contents   

                       

TRUMP AND THE FOREIGN-POLICY ESTABLISHMENT

Michael Brendan Dougherty

National Review, May 16, 2017

 

Speaking to a number of governors in February, Donald Trump unburdened himself, “We have to win. We have to start winning wars again. . . . We never win and we don’t fight to win. We’ve either got to win or don’t fight it at all.” So far, so familiar. But in Afghanistan it seems Trump is considering a different option — to muddle through, indefinitely. America’s longest war will just go on, and American blood, treasure, and honor will be spent in perpetuity supporting a government it knows to be corrupt, in a society that every empire in history has given up on reforming.

 

Trump would be the third president to settle for less in Afghanistan. President Obama promised to finish the job that Bush didn’t finish because of the “distraction” of the Iraq War. Obama fulfilled his campaign promise of doing more in Afghanistan. His dramatic surge of troops resulted in real gains for the U.S. But he never instituted a full counterinsurgency strategy, and dared not risk a more comprehensive strategy of going after the Taliban’s redoubts in Pakistan. As U.S. troops withdrew according to a predetermined schedule, the Taliban took back more and more territory. By the end of his presidency, Obama was left just slowing down the pace of withdrawal in order to avoid the humiliation of Kabul’s fall before his exit.

 

As the Taliban regained territory, hundreds of thousands of Afghans were displaced from their homes. Opium production boomed. And corruption in the allied government in Kabul increased. A January report from the inspector general for Afghanistan stated that just over half of the country’s administrative districts were under the control of the U.S.-backed government. Military experts issued memos explaining that even putting 100,000 ground troops in Afghanistan might not achieve “the appearance of victory.” You’d think that Trump, facing such long odds, would cut America’s losses. Not so. “The interventionists prevailed” in an internal White House debate, reports Bloomberg’s Eli Lake. Obama’s strategy of using scheduled time limits may have controlled the domestic political cost of continuing the war, but it certainly failed as a strategy for encouraging the Afghan government to grow up and reform itself. And that strategy will be abandoned under Trump.

 

Instead of scheduled withdrawal dates, the U.S. will manage the percentages, increasing troop levels in order to keep the Taliban pinned down in eastern Afghanistan, winning back a larger portion (but not all) of the country’s administrative districts, and generally keeping the Taliban and other Islamists locked down in a resource-poor part of the country that can be harassed by planes and drones. Doing this manages the risk on both ends. It reduces the risk of Afghanistan’s returning to its pre-9/11 state as a safe haven for terrorists, but it also reduces the risk that America will tire of the costs of the mission and that Congress will cut the purse strings. Trump was on to something, however, when he pined for the simpler measures of victory over the current model of threat management — which is deeply unsatisfying, and a long fall from the belief of General Tommy Franks, expressed on December 22, 2001, that the United States had “liberated twenty-five million people and unified the country.”

 

After World War II and the Korean War, the United States maintained a large presence of troops in Germany and East Asia in order to keep the peace and deter potential enemies. But this is something different. Now we are maintaining troops in order to make sure the enemy is fighting us over there, so that every spring and summer see another round of skirmishes. Afghanistan is now a strange test for the United States: How long can a democratic people support a limited war that everyone acknowledges will not end in victory? Or at least, not in a victory as we’ve known it before?

 

If Trump embarks on National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster’s plan for Afghanistan, it will show that on certain questions the foreign-policy establishment is successfully pushing Trump to accept their premises and their conclusions. Maybe you find it reassuring. But there are a half-dozen conflicts in which the U.S. is a player, and in which there are few prospects of leaving behind a success story like Germany or South Korea. In Somalia, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, the United States has all but admitted it cannot leave behind a functional, self-sustaining ally and member of good standing in the international order. Will Trump hand all of them on to his successors in more or less the same condition as they are now? We got into these conflicts with much heady talk about a democratic domino theory, or even an end to evil. We comforted ourselves that an Arab Spring would lead to peace and accountable government, and quickly reaped the whirlwind. If this is what the next American century looks like, it will be a depressing slog.          

 

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                                 IRAN, FIGHTING TO THE LAST AFGHAN

Michael Rubin

Commentary, Apr. 3, 2017

 

During the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and Cuba regularly used foreign proxies to fight their battles. When Radek Sikorski became Poland’s Defense Minister in 2005, he exposed how the Soviet Union’s classified war plans against NATO included using nuclear weapons against West Germany and then sending Polish soldiers to march across the radioactive battlefields. Cuban soldiers meanwhile became proxies for Cold War struggles in Angola and across Latin America. During the Cold War, the Algeria-based Polisario Front forcibly separated Sahwari children from their parents for re-education in Cuba and eventual deployment in service of various liberation movements. Such exploitation of whole countries as mercenary forces was a disgusting practice. It was one that should have ended with the fall of the Cold War.

 

Increasingly, however, the Islamic Republic of Iran is replicating the former Soviet and Cuban strategies in Syria, where its intervention to support Bashar al-Assad has cost the Islamic Republic several thousand Iranian soldiers and cadets. The Iranian use of Hezbollah in Lebanon should have put permanently to rest any notion that Hezbollah has evolved into a Lebanese national organization. Rather, it remains what it always has been: A proxy for the Islamic Republic of Iran. But Hezbollah is not alone. A couple of years ago, I noted the increasing number of funerals of foreign nationals—especially Afghans—occurring in Iran whom Iranian news sources said had died fighting in Syria.

 

In recent weeks, however, mention of the Afghans has increased. On March 2, for example, Esmail Ghani, the deputy commander of the Qods Force, praised the entirely Afghan Shi’ite Fatimiyoun Brigade for its sacrifices in both Iraq and Syria. When the Fatimiyoun [Brigade] set foot in Syria, its streets were in America’s hands. Today… [the Fatimiyoun] have slapped America on the mouth. [America] would never have come to the negotiations if it weren’t for [the Fatimiyoun’s] strength on the field,” Ghani said, according to a translation from the American Enterprise Institute’s Iran team. Subsequently, the Fatimiyoun Brigade announced that it had created a dedicated mosque in Mashhad–Iran’s second-largest city–so that it could form its own Basij unit.

 

The Basij, of course, are a paramilitary and cultural organization which, on the one hand, keeps order in times of crisis but, on the other, recruits and indoctrinates. They fall under the wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iranian leaders have previously said they want to create a 100 million-strong Basij organization spanning national borders and nationalities. It seems this was not mere rhetoric but rather a roadmap to Iran’s future plans. Throughout its existence, Hezbollah has been a force for instability. As first the Obama administration and now seemingly the Trump administration acquiesce to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power and the Iranian influence that follows him, it is time to recognize that such ‘stability’ comes at a price which makes the world decidedly less stable. While the Obama team, at least, whitewashed Iran’s poor behavior, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have put in place a strategy to radicalize not only Afghans but to use Shi’ite mercenaries from Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere to take ‘export of revolution’ potentially ever farther afield.

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Deadly Kabul Bombing the Latest in a Raging Afghanistan War: Mark MacKinnon, Globe and Mail, May 31, 2017— The sewage tanker that exploded in the centre of Kabul on Wednesday – leaving at least 80 people dead and damaging several foreign embassies, including Canada’s – was a bloody reminder that the long war for Afghanistan is far from over.

Afghanistan Blames Pakistan for Planning Deadly Kabul Attack: Ruchi Kumar, Foreign Policy, June 1, 2017

It’s Time to Give Up On Saving Afghanistan: Ralph Peters, New York Post, June 5, 2017— In Afghanistan, we’re the Redcoats. And for a substantial portion of the country’s ethnic-Pashtun majority, the Taliban, however cruel and odious we find them, are the Minutemen.

Afghanistan, the Sequel. Why Would Canada Return to a War it Would Rather Forget?: Andrew Potter, National Post, May 19, 2017— The last time Canadians paid any serious attention to Afghanistan was just over three years ago. It was March 2014 when we ended our training mission in Kabul with a quiet flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOM HASHOAH: CONFRONTING THE DANGER OF HOLOCAUST DISTORTION AFGHANISTAN: U.S. DROPS “MOAB” AMID DECLINING SECURITY SITUATION

 

 

The Real Danger: Holocaust Distortion: Efraim Zuroff, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 23, 2017— During the past month Holocaust- related issues have received an extraordinary amount of attention from the media.

‘It Wasn’t Us’: The Battle for Memory and History: Robert Rozett, Times of Israel, Apr. 23, 2017— Although Europe, fortunately, has not known full-fledged war since the end of the twentieth century, it is the main scene of a battle going on today.

Sound and Fury: Max Boot, New York Times, Apr. 14, 2017— When I read of the United States forces’ dropping of the second-largest non-nuclear explosive in their arsenal — the 21,000-pound GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) — in eastern Afghanistan…

Iran, Fighting to the Last Afghan: Michael Rubin, Commentary, Apr. 3, 2017 — During the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and Cuba regularly used foreign proxies to fight their battles.

 

On Topic Links

 

Israel Marks Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day With Official Opening Ceremony at Yad Vashem (Video): Jerusalem Online, Apr. 23, 2017

Celebrating Life in Krakow: Tamara Zieve, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 24, 2017

At Least 140 Dead After Taliban Attack on a Key Afghan Army Base, Officials Say: Sayed Salahuddin & Pamela Constable, Washington Post, Apr. 22, 2017

Is It Time for America and Afghanistan to Part Ways?: Daniel R. DePetris, National Interest, Apr. 23, 2017

 

 

THE REAL DANGER: HOLOCAUST DISTORTION

Efraim Zuroff                                  

           Jerusalem Post, Apr. 23, 2017

 

During the past month Holocaust- related issues have received an extraordinary amount of attention from the media. Four examples come to mind. One was the inaccurate comparison by White House spokesperson Sean Spicer between Hitler and Syrian President Bashar Assad in which he forgot that the Nazis had gassed to death millions of Jews. A second was French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s assertion that France was not responsible for the roundup by Vichy police of more than 12,000 Jews in Paris in the summer of 1942.

 

The third was the patently false claims made by former London mayor Ken Livingstone that Hitler supported Zionism, implying that the Zionist movement actually collaborated with the Third Reich. The fourth was the erroneous claim that documents from the recently- opened archives of the UN war crimes commission were the first proof that the Allies were already aware of the Holocaust in late 1942 and not only after the liberation of German concentration camps.

 

The good news is that the Holocaust occupies a unique place in Western historical consciousness and that any glaring mistakes by those in prominent positions about its events will be publicized immediately and corrected by responsible historians. The most important question is, however, the reason for such comments, and their implications.

 

In that respect, we must differentiate between those remarks motivated by ignorance or incompetence, like those of Spicer (who to his credit profusely apologized) or the ones about the ostensible significance of the documents in the UN war crimes archives, and those prompted by antisemitism, such as those of Livingstone, or by a combination of antisemitism and political opportunism, such as those of Le Pen.

 

Needless to say, whereas the first two are undoubtedly annoying, it is the last two which should be of serious concern, since they reflect the growing danger posed by Holocaust distortion, in which the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis and their helpers is not denied, but efforts are made to rewrite the narrative of the Shoah for political reasons. Thus while it appears that Holocaust denial has been defeated in the Western world, new lies about aspects of the Shoah are being invented which are even more dangerous, since they cannot be as easily refuted as Holocaust denial.

 

Nowhere is this phenomenon more acute than in Eastern Europe, the only region where collaboration with the Nazis entailed active participation in mass murder. Thus a primary motivation behind East European efforts to rewrite the history of the Holocaust is to hide, or at least minimize, the crimes of local collaborators. Another objective is to convince the world that Communist crimes were just as bad as those of the Nazis, and that the peoples of Eastern Europe were the victims of genocide.

 

These goals were formulated in the June 3, 2008 Prague Declaration which calls upon Europe to treat the tragedies of Nazism and Communism as if they were historically equivalent, and calls for measures which if adopted would undermine the justified status of the Shoa as a unique historical event. It is therefore quite surprising that former German president Joachim Gauck was invited this year to participate in the official closing ceremony of Holocaust Remembrance Day at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot. Gauck is one of the politicians who signed the Prague Declaration (before he became president) and to this day has never indicated any change of mind about the equivalency of Nazi and Communist crimes. So if that’s the case in the Jewish state, what can we expect from anyone else?

 

                                                                           

Contents   

                     

‘IT WASN’T US’: THE BATTLE FOR MEMORY AND HISTORY

Robert Rozett                                                                 

Times of Israel, Apr. 23, 2017

 

Although Europe, fortunately, has not known full-fledged war since the end of the twentieth century, it is the main scene of a battle going on today. It is a battle for memory and about the history of the Holocaust and events of the Second World War. This battle is playing out on several fronts, but with at least one clear common denominator: history is frequently being manipulated and whitewashed for political reasons.

 

The most recent newsworthy skirmish took place in France, where Marine Le Pen declared that “France was not responsible for the Vel d’Hiv.” This is perhaps the most infamous raid on French Jewry. Early in the morning on July 16, 1942 some 4,500 French policemen started to arrest foreign Jews living in Paris. More than 11,000 were arrested that day, and confined to the Velodrome d’Hiver, known as the Vel’ d’Hiv, a winter cycling stadium in Paris. They were held in atrocious conditions. Within a few days, the number of Jewish incarcerated had grown to 13,000, including about 4,000 children. From the Vélodrome d’Hiver the Jews were sent east to Nazi extermination camps by way of French transit camps. Le Pen presents what has come to be known as “alternative facts,” in other words a totally ungrounded version of events that seeks to whitewash the role of the French in this deportation and subsequent murder of Jews, so as to place all of the onus on the Germans.

 

Le Pen, of course, is not the first and probably will not be the last public figure to try to relieve her nation of responsibility for its role in the Holocaust and shift it to the shoulders of the Nazis. This is certainly a central theme in the discussion about the Holocaust and Second World War in Poland. The Polish president Andrzej Duda has denied that Poles took part in the murder of their Jewish neighbors in Jedwabne. In this version of events, the murder of the Jews of that town was solely a German enterprise. However there is solid documentary evidence that Poles took part in that murder and others.

 

Concomitantly, there is a trend to present Poles as a nation of victims and rescuers. Of course Poland suffered greatly under the yoke of the Nazis, but Polish suffering did not translate into solidarity with Jews. The arithmetic gymnastics that are employed to extrapolate from the 6,706 Polish Righteous among the Nations and conclude that at least a million Poles were involved in rescue, are just that, gymnastics. It is true that more Righteous among the Nations have been recognized in Poland than any other country, but that is because Poland had by far the largest Jewish community under Nazi domination, and it is not because Poland was a nation of rescuers.

 

Reading Barbara Engelking’s recently published monograph “Such a Beautiful Sunny Day, Jews Seeking Refuge in the Polish Countryside 1942-1945” (Yad Vashem 2017) alongside Jan Grabowski’s seminal study “Hunt for the Jews, Betrayal and Murder in German-occupied Poland” (Indiana University 2013) demonstrates unequivocally that many ordinary Poles were deeply complicit in the persecution and murder of their Jewish neighbors, and that those who rescued Jews, first and foremost feared denunciation by fellow Poles, usually their neighbors and even family members.

 

In Hungary, the Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his associates are also busy revising history. So far nothing has come of the museum they had planned to build to eclipse the excellent Holocaust museum on Pava Utca in Budapest that portrays events and processes in a historically accurate fashion, including that Hungarian institutions played a principal role in the persecution and deportation Hungarian Jews. The new museum’s planned narrative would skirt around such “inconvenient” facts, and focus on the suffering of children, ascribing it to “fate.” No less an expression of Orban’s revisionism is the monument that was erected in Budapest to all the victims of the German occupation of Hungary. Hungary was occupied in March 1944 when it tried to get out of the war. Nevertheless it was precisely during the occupation that the Hungarian government fully cooperated in the deportations of the Jews. The monument obscenely equates general suffering under occupation with the Holocaust.

 

Especially in the Baltic countries, but not only there, the narrative that equates Stalin’s crimes to Hitler’s has established a firm foothold. Undeniably Stalin perpetrated much evil, but when this is equated to the Holocaust, there is an underlying manipulation at play. The subtext is rooted in the canard that Stalin’s crimes were perpetrated primarily by the Jews, since even if not all communists were Jews, all Jews were supposedly communists. So the culpability of local people in the persecution of their Jewish neighbors is cancelled out by the purported crimes committed by the Jews. In the Baltics, as well as other places that were under Communist control, like the Ukraine, anti-communist patriots are often lauded. Many of them, however, like Stepan Bandera in the Ukraine or Herberts Cukurs in Latvia, also engaged in the murder of Jews, and that part is overlooked.

 

The ongoing battle for memory does not imply that the Holocaust should be placed on a pedestal and never invoked in conjunction with other issues and events, or probed to derive whatever insights we can about our own condition. On the contrary, sometimes aspects of the Holocaust are very germane to the conversation. But they should be invoked with thoughtfulness and with the best historical integrity that can be mustered, without slipping into a new clash in the battle for memory and history.

 

Contents                                                                                                                                          SOUND AND FURY                                                                                 

Max Boot                                                                                         

New York Times, Apr. 14, 2017

 

When I read of the United States forces’ dropping of the second-largest non-nuclear explosive in their arsenal — the 21,000-pound GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) — in eastern Afghanistan, I am reminded of what John Paul Vann, the legendary Army officer and civilian adviser during the Vietnam War, said about the right way to fight guerrillas: “This is a political war, and it calls for discrimination in killing. The best weapon for killing would be a knife, but I’m afraid we can’t do it that way. The worst is an airplane. The next worse is artillery. Barring a knife, the best is a rifle — you know who you’re killing.” An Israeli general made a similar point to me after the defeat of the second intifada, saying, “Better to fight terror with an M-16 rather than an F-16.”

 

What they were saying, these veteran counterguerrilla fighters, is that war requires careful calibration in the application of violence, lest excessive firepower kill lots of innocents and drive more recruits into the enemy’s camp. That is precisely the problem that United States forces (and before them, the French) encountered in Vietnam and the Russians encountered in Afghanistan.

 

There is, to be sure, no evidence of any collateral damage from the use of the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan. Preliminary reporting indicates that the bomb may have killed 36 Islamic State militants and collapsed some tunnel networks. These are results to be cheered. And if North Korea or Iran is intimidated by this staggering display of firepower, so much the better.

 

But while it makes sense to loosen the overly restrictive rules of engagement imposed by the Obama administration, doing so carries risks. A reminder of that came in Syria, where a recent United States airstrike mistakenly killed 18 friendly Syrian fighters. This is not an anomaly; as my Council on Foreign Relations colleague, Micah Zenko, notes, both American airstrikes and civilian casualties have increased since the Trump administration took office.

 

President Trump, who campaigned on a promise to “bomb the shit” out of the Islamic State militants, will not be concerned about this; indeed, he said that the use of the MOAB was a “very, very successful mission,” and he is probably right, in the narrow tactical sense. But for the bigger strategic picture he would be well-advised to read the 2006 United States Army-Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, co-authored by his own secretary of defense, which states: “An operation that kills five insurgents is counterproductive if collateral damage leads to the recruitment of 50 more insurgents.”

 

Beyond the possibility of collateral damage, there is a larger reason the use of the MOAB in Afghanistan should not be a cause for high-fives and unseemly celebration: It is a sign that the war in Afghanistan is not going well. The kind of war that Vann envisioned — employing small arms — is only possible if the threat is below a certain threshold. When the enemy becomes too powerful, as it did in Vietnam, then it becomes necessary to call in air and artillery strikes. That was not a sign of progress; it was a sign, in fact, that the security situation was spiraling out of control.

 

The situation in Afghanistan is, needless to say, not nearly as bad as it was in Vietnam during the 1960s. The Taliban are no Vietcong, and they are not supported by regular army units like the People’s Army of Vietnam. But nevertheless the trajectory in Afghanistan has been headed in the wrong direction since President Obama prematurely ended his surge and withdrew most American troops by 2016.

 

Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of the international military force in Afghanistan, noted in early February that the government is in control of only about two-thirds of the population. As the terrorism analyst Peter Bergen points out, this means that the Taliban either “control or contest” “a total of around 10 million people, which is more than the population that ISIS controlled in Syria and Iraq at the height of its power during the summer of 2014.”

 

The Taliban are bad enough. Just as worrisome is that the Islamic State is also making inroads in eastern Afghanistan. Indeed, the Islamic State is by now so well-established that the Afghan Army was unable to advance into its stronghold in the Achin district of Nangarhar Province. Hence the decision to drop the MOAB. But, as Mr. Bergen says, in 2001 the United States dropped 15,000-pound “Daisy Cutter” bombs on the nearby Tora Bora complex and still failed to kill Osama bin Laden and other senior leaders of Al Qaeda. Such enormous munitions may make a big blast, but they are not guaranteed to wipe out enemy fighters burrowing deep underground. And even if they kill insurgents, they will not kill the insurgency.

 

Victory in any counterinsurgency requires improving the effectiveness of the government and bringing 24/7 security to the countryside. In the case of Afghanistan, it is simply not possible to achieve those objectives with only 8,500 United States troops assisting the embattled Afghan security forces, which are suffering heavy casualties and losing ground. General Nicholson asked for a “few thousand” more advisers, and if the Trump administration wants to maintain even the existing, tenuous level of security, it will have to, at a minimum, meet his request. Bombs alone, no matter how big, won’t get the job done.                   

 

Contents                                                                                                        

IRAN, FIGHTING TO THE LAST AFGHAN                                                                             

Michael Rubin                                                                                                    

Commentary, Apr. 3, 2017

 

During the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and Cuba regularly used foreign proxies to fight their battles. When Radek Sikorski became Poland’s Defense Minister in 2005, he exposed how the Soviet Union’s classified war plans against NATO included using nuclear weapons against West Germany and then sending Polish soldiers to march across the radioactive battlefields. Cuban soldiers meanwhile became proxies for Cold War struggles in Angola and across Latin America. During the Cold War, the Algeria-based Polisario Front forcibly separated Sahwari children from their parents for re-education in Cuba and eventual deployment in service of various liberation movements. Such exploitation of whole countries as mercenary forces was a disgusting practice. It was one that should have ended with the fall of the Cold War.

 

Increasingly, however, the Islamic Republic of Iran is replicating the former Soviet and Cuban strategies in Syria, where its intervention to support Bashar al-Assad has cost the Islamic Republic several thousand Iranian soldiers and cadets. The Iranian use of Hezbollah in Lebanon should have put permanently to rest any notion that Hezbollah has evolved into a Lebanese national organization. Rather, it remains what it always has been: A proxy for the Islamic Republic of Iran. But Hezbollah is not alone. A couple of years ago, I noted the increasing number of funerals of foreign nationals—especially Afghans—occurring in Iran whom Iranian news sources said had died fighting in Syria.

 

In recent weeks, however, mention of the Afghans has increased. On March 2, for example, Esmail Ghani, the deputy commander of the Qods Force, praised the entirely Afghan Shi’ite Fatimiyoun Brigade for its sacrifices in both Iraq and Syria. When the Fatimiyoun [Brigade] set foot in Syria, its streets were in America’s hands. Today… [the Fatimiyoun] have slapped America on the mouth. [America] would never have come to the negotiations if it weren’t for [the Fatimiyoun’s] strength on the field,” Ghani said, according to a translation from the American Enterprise Institute’s Iran team. Subsequently, the Fatimiyoun Brigade announced that it had created a dedicated mosque in Mashhad–Iran’s second-largest city–so that it could form its own Basij unit.

 

The Basij, of course, are a paramilitary and cultural organization which, on the one hand, keeps order in times of crisis but, on the other, recruits and indoctrinates. They fall under the wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iranian leaders have previously said they want to create a 100 million-strong Basij organization spanning national borders and nationalities. It seems this was not mere rhetoric but rather a roadmap to Iran’s future plans.

 

Throughout its existence, Hezbollah has been a force for instability. As first the Obama administration and now seemingly the Trump administration acquiesce to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power and the Iranian influence that follows him, it is time to recognize that such ‘stability’ comes at a price which makes the world decidedly less stable. While the Obama team, at least, whitewashed Iran’s poor behavior, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have put in place a strategy to radicalize not only Afghans but to use Shi’ite mercenaries from Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere to take ‘export of revolution’ potentially ever farther afield.

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Israel Marks Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day With Official Opening Ceremony at Yad Vashem (Video): Jerusalem Online, Apr. 23, 2017

Celebrating Life in Krakow: Tamara Zieve, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 24, 2017—The main square of Krakow’s Jewish quarter was bursting with life Sunday with groups of youth from all over the world on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Groups of young participants in the International March of the Living thronged outside the Remah Synagogue where Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett paid a visit and stopped to talk to high school students.

At Least 140 Dead After Taliban Attack on a Key Afghan Army Base, Officials Say: Sayed Salahuddin & Pamela Constable, Washington Post, Apr. 22, 2017—The nerve center of Afghan and NATO combat activities in northern Afghanistan is a sprawling military base in Balkh province. There, thousands of Afghan National Army troops live and train, regional deployments and attacks are planned, and U.S.-supplied helicopters and fighter planes are launched to support Afghan troops battling the Taliban.

Is It Time for America and Afghanistan to Part Ways?: Daniel R. DePetris, National Interest, Apr. 23, 2017—The war in Afghanistan has been going on for such a long period of time that it’s almost become a ritual for a new administration to take a bottom-up, comprehensive look at America’s war strategy during its first two months on the job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YEMEN & AFGHANISTAN’S ONGOING CONFLICTS TEST U.S. FOREIGN POLICY

Selling Trump a New Afghanistan Commitment: Josh Rogin, Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2017— The Trump administration is considering whether to plunge more resources and troops into the United States’ longest war — Afghanistan — as some of the president’s top generals are calling for.

Will President Trump End the 'Total Disaster' War in Afghanistan?: Javid Ahmad, National Interest, February 27, 2017— The Afghan war, now in its sixteenth year, has arguably become one of the world's most consequential conflicts.

Yemen Has Become Iran’s Testing Ground for New Weapons: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, BESA, March 2, 2017— The ongoing crisis in Yemen, whose end is not in sight, is giving Iran an opportunity to turn Yemen into a testing ground for various weapons it is developing for the maritime and military arenas.

The Dangerous Implications of Democrats’ Obsession with Trump’s Yemen Raid: David French, National Review, Mar. 2, 2017— On Saturday, December 6, 2014, there was an American commando raid in Yemen.

               

On Topic Links

 

Dozens Killed in ISIS Attack on Kabul Military Hospital: Ehsanullah Amiri & Margherita Stancati, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 8, 2017

Why Russia is Returning to Afghanistan: Jeffrey Mankoff, World Politics Review, Feb. 28, 2017

Saudis Bankroll Taliban, Even as King Officially Supports Afghan Government: Carlotta Gall, New York Times, Dec. 6, 2016

How America Lost Afghanistan: Bonnie Kristian, The Week, Mar. 7, 2017

SELLING TRUMP A NEW AFGHANISTAN COMMITMENT                                                         

Josh Rogin

Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2017

 

The Trump administration is considering whether to plunge more resources and troops into the United States’ longest war — Afghanistan — as some of the president’s top generals are calling for. The issue pits President Trump’s commitment to end nation-building against his promise to stamp out terrorism in a conflict where a clear U.S. strategy is sorely lacking.

 

After more than 15 years of U.S. fighting, the war is at a crossroads. The Afghan national security forces are on their heels. The government is asking the United States and its NATO partners to help it go on offense against the Taliban, which has been taking territory with the help of Pakistan, Iran and Russia. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson, has publicly testified that he wants “a few thousand” more troops there. He also says there is a need for a more “holistic review” of the mission.

 

As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis prepares a formal recommendation to the White House, debate has renewed in Washington on whether the United States is throwing good money after bad in Afghanistan. But as far as the Afghan government is concerned, there’s really no safe alternative. “The Taliban, while they may not be directly planning direct attacks on U.S. territory, they provide the environment for all kinds of terrorist groups to operate,” Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Washington, told me. “If we allow any terrorist group to succeed, it doesn’t matter what terrorist group, it emboldens all of them.”

 

There’s an immediate need for equipment and personnel, he said, before the start of the summer fighting season, which is sure to be bloody. If thousands more U.S. troops arrive, they would serve in an advise-and-training role, not direct combat. But the idea is to embed them in Afghan units, placing them closer to the fighting. The Afghan government is also asking for helicopters, special forces gear and intelligence assistance to fill urgent shortfalls. For example, the Afghan military’s fleet of Russian helicopters is mostly grounded, in part because of a lack of spare parts as a result of U.S. sanctions against Russia.

 

Mohib is optimistic that Trump’s team is open to the idea of committing more resources to Afghanistan. “The hesitation that existed in the previous administration is gone,” Mohib said. “The hesitation was that the U.S. didn’t have a good partner to work with in the Afghan government.”

 

Republican leaders in Congress are cautiously supportive of an Afghanistan troop increase they would be responsible to fund. But they want to make sure the Trump administration doesn’t repeat what they see as President Barack Obama’s mistakes, including setting timelines for withdrawal and failing to bring the American people along. “Arbitrary political limits make it harder to accomplish the mission,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) told me. “It is equally important that the president make the public case for our continued presence in Afghanistan. . . . President Obama never made that case, and our mission suffered for it.”

 

Trump barely mentioned Afghanistan during the campaign, other than to say it was “not going well” or to compare it favorably to Chicago. The lack of campaign rhetoric gives Trump something of a free hand to choose any policy he wants. The generals supporting the plan could strengthen their case by getting NATO allies to make human and financial commitments up front. That would address Trump’s criticism that NATO doesn’t do counterterrorism and doesn’t pay its fair share. The generals might also argue that Afghanistan is a natural long-term partner for the regional fight against terrorism, which is not going away soon.

 

Experts mostly agree, though, that surging resources to bolster the Afghan security forces is a stopgap measure at best. Without a comprehensive strategy that deals with Pakistan’s insistence on providing support and sanctuary for the Taliban, no gains are sustainable. A new strategy also must include a plausible path to return to negotiations to end the conflict. For now, the Taliban doesn’t feel enough pressure to compromise. “An open-ended commitment with no strategy poses a very high risk of very expensive failure,” said Christopher Kolenda, a former senior adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Pentagon.

 

Mattis, Nicholson, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. and new national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster all have deep experience in Afghanistan and understand that the military aspect of the plan is necessary but not sufficient. Selling a new U.S. commitment to Trump and then to the American people will not be easy. But if the administration is able to tune out the politics, share the burden and follow a clear strategy, the benefits of the deal will outweigh the costs.                            

                                                                       

Contents

 

WILL PRESIDENT TRUMP END THE 'TOTAL DISASTER'

WAR IN AFGHANISTAN?

Javid Ahmad

National Interest, February 27, 2017

 

The Afghan war, now in its sixteenth year, has arguably become one of the world's most consequential conflicts. The steady stream of news from Afghanistan is as relentless as it is depressing. More important, the eerie silence in Washington, DC to discuss the future course of Afghan conflict—and America’s role in it—is deafening. President Donald Trump, now the third U.S. president to lead the Afghan mission, has called the war a “total disaster,” which the United States should abandon altogether. Trump, who has claimed to have a foolproof plan to defeat the Islamic State, has not yet discussed his strategy for fighting America’s longest war. The silence, however, does not qualify as an improvement from the policy of the Obama administration, whose excessive caution while dealing with Afghanistan and arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal of U.S. troops made the Afghan campaign more challenging.

 

Nonetheless, the stakes are high for the United States. For one, the security conditions have exacerbated, and the emboldened Taliban now controls more territory in Afghanistan than any time since 2001. Pakistan, who is in cahoots with the Taliban, continues to provide the group with extensive sanctuaries and support network on its territory. At the same time, the Islamic State has made significant inroads into Afghanistan and has carved out a footprint in eastern parts of the country. Meanwhile, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, who are boldly fighting the insurgency, have endured an alarming number of causalities and have suffered a 2.4 percent attrition rate every month. Civilian casualties have hit a record high with 3,498 deaths and 7,920 injured in 2016 alone, with a ten-fold increase in losses caused by the Islamic State.

 

Additionally, the influx of returning Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Europe, and over 600,000 people internally displaced by rising insecurity, have created a humanitarian crisis. Last year, the UN reported that one-third of Afghans (9.3 million) needed immediate assistance. Moreover, regional countries have engaged in unhelpful machinations to deepen their ties with armed groups that undermine American and Afghan interests. Among them Iran and Russia have extended their support to the Taliban, including sharing intelligence with the group, to contain the growing threat of the Islamic State. Unfortunately, these grim realities, coupled with an absence of a coherent U.S. strategy to address the terror group, have sown anxiety among U.S. allies and partners.

 

More vitally, Washington’s continued silence is dangerous. Earlier this month, Gen. John Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told Congress in his testimony that the Afghan war is at “stalemate.” However, Trump has a better chance of success in Afghanistan than his predecessor, Barack Obama, a hesitant warrior who focused less on winning the war and more on not losing it. In the course, however, Washington was repeatedly reminded that the Afghan mission was broader than initially anticipated, but little was done to adjust accordingly. More crucially, by any measure, U.S. and coalition forces have won every major battle with the Taliban and other militants, but these tactical feats have not yet led to a decisive victory. This is mainly because the Taliban are free to retreat, train and regroup in sanctuaries inside Pakistan. Pakistan’s duplicity is arguably the greatest contributor to international failure to achieve stability in Afghanistan.

 

In his testimony, Nicholson told Congress that “it is very difficult to succeed on the battlefield when your enemy enjoys external support and safe haven,” and called for a “holistic review” of U.S. relations with Pakistan. Pakistan has repeatedly shown through its actions that any chaos it can manage in Afghanistan is better than a noncompliant regime in Kabul. In the past, concerns about Pakistan’s sincerity have even prompted suggestions that the United States engage in unilateral action against militants inside Pakistan. Pakistan uses “good” militants as proxies not only because they are expendable and low-cost compared to deploying military forces, but also because it offers Pakistan a plausible deniability.

 

More significantly, Pakistan has bolstered Taliban’s two-pronged approach in Afghanistan: to stoke fear by inflicting maximum damage and to undermine the Afghan government by temporarily seizing key provincial districts across the country. In doing so, Taliban has targeted district governors, police chiefs and provincial leaders. Meanwhile, the Taliban’s leadership council, or the Quetta Shura, has been steadily moved from the city of Quetta in Baluchistan province to the northeastern city of Peshawar. Key Taliban leaders are reportedly hosted by Pakistan army officials in military garrisons in Peshawar. More vitally, the Taliban’s has gradually moved from their guerrilla hit-and-run tactics into more conventional military methods in the battlefield. Among the group’s new tactics are conducting large-scale coordinated raids and sabotage activities, such as planting land mines and IEDs across major roadways to block the mobility of Afghan forces and starve them for resources.

 

Furthermore, Taliban fighters reportedly have access to advanced weaponry, including night-vision goggles, sniper rifles, sophisticated communication equipment and drones for reconnaissance and propaganda purposes. Additionally, the group has significantly improved its human and open-source intelligence gathering capabilities, including operating robust informant networks, which collect and disseminate information in a decentralized structure. Access to these resources and the change in battleground tactics exceeds beyond the Taliban’s traditional capabilities and suggests that it is propped up by a support network.

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

 

Contents

 

YEMEN HAS BECOME IRAN’S TESTING GROUND FOR NEW WEAPONS                                         

Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall

BESA, March 2, 2017

 

The ongoing crisis in Yemen, whose end is not in sight, is giving Iran an opportunity to turn Yemen into a testing ground for various weapons it is developing for the maritime and military arenas. The Houthi rebels, who have taken over parts of northern Yemen including the capital, Sana’a, are getting ongoing assistance from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), mainly via Hizbullah trainers, in the use of missiles and rockets along with an ongoing supply of other weapons such as drones, explosive devices, and battlefield materiel…

 

On February 10, 2017, Abd al-Malik al-Houthi, leader of the Houthis in Yemen, said that they were beginning to manufacture drones and other airborne weapons, including surface-to-air missiles that can intercept the Saudi-led coalition planes as well as missiles “that can hit Saudi territory and beyond.” Since the beginning of the year, the Houthis have increased their missile fire, including Scuds, from Yemeni territory at different targets in Saudi Arabia, including airports and civilian infrastructures, along with missile fire at coalition targets in Yemeni territory. Hizbullah advisers are taking part in some of the missile launches.

 

Since the beginning of 2016, the Houthis have been using drones for intelligence-gathering missions, and also, according to some reports, to attack the Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen. Sheikh Abdulmalik Mikhlafi, deputy prime minister of the recognized Yemeni government, said that a Houthi drone intercepted by the Yemeni army had a missile-firing capability, a fact that points to Iran’s growing involvement in the crisis in Yemen. Notably, the Qasef attack drone is very similar to previous drone models manufactured by Iran in the Ababil series. The other models, too, have similar features to drones deployed by Iran.

 

Along with the use of drones in the aerial domain, the Houthis have been increasingly active in the maritime domain in the Bab el-Mandab area. In addition to the occasional launch of Iranian-supplied anti-ship cruise missiles, the Houthis have begun to deploy, apparently with Iranian assistance, unmanned remote-controlled maritime craft. Sources in the U.S. Navy believe the January 30, 2017, attack on the Saudi frigate Al-Madinah near the Yemeni port of Hudeida was carried out by an unmanned and guided boat. Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, U.S. Fifth Fleet commander, said, “Our assessment is that it was an unmanned, remote-controlled boat of some kind.” According to a report by the U.S. Naval Institute, the naval craft was provided by the navy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (the IRGCN).

 

At first, Saudi Arabia claimed the attack had been carried out by boats bearing suicide bombers, and the Houthis claimed they had fired a shore-to-sea missile (at the moment of the strike there were shouts in the background of a video of “Allahu Akbar [Allah is the Greatest]! Death to America! Death to Israel! Curse upon the Jews! Victory to Islam!”). It later turned out that it was an unmanned naval drone ship. Such vessels pose a new threat to civilian maritime traffic, open a new page in the clashes between Iran and Saudi Arabia in this sensitive arena, and could reach other Iranian-supported terror organizations in the world.

 

Iran is constantly developing its capabilities for asymmetrical maritime warfare. The aim is to contend with the United States’ superior maritime capabilities, including by attacking U.S. ships with swarms of manned and unmanned speedboats. The attack on the Saudi frigate offers a good example of Iran’s offensive unmanned-warship capability. The attack reflects the Iranian combat doctrine of using asymmetrical means against enemies that have a technological advantage. In that way, the Houthis have managed to firmly hold their ground against Saudi Arabia and the Arab-coalition forces for several years. Recently, the fighting has also spread to the maritime sphere.

 

During President Obama’s tenure, small IRGC craft often flaunted their power very close to the U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf, threatening them; U.S. reactions were minimal for fear of a clash. Iran would also send drones over U.S. vessels and photograph their activity. The aim was both to prepare for a possible confrontation with these ships and to disrupt their ongoing activity in the area. In the naval maneuvers Iran conducts from time to time, like the recent one in which it revealed a new shore-to-sea missile, it practices the sinking of large U.S. vessels including aircraft carriers.

 

The continuing conflict in Yemen, which is being waged both at sea and on land, gives Iran an opportunity to test some of its capabilities and military doctrines “for real.”…Iran’s active involvement in the conflict in Yemen, including the various weapons it is introducing and testing in the arena has implications for the Palestinian terror organizations’ and Hizbullah’s future rounds of warfare against Israel. Hamas and Hizbullah are already deploying unmanned aerial and naval craft manufactured by Iran, or built with Iranian know-how, in the struggle against Israel. Unmanned warships like those the Houthis used in Yemen would pose a new kind of threat both to Israel’s navy and to its natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean. The longer the conflict in Yemen continues, the more experience Iran and Hizbullah will gain in using this weapon. Iran already has a record of testing weapons in different places and deploying them in different arenas. Explosive devices were used against the IDF in Lebanon and the U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, and the Houthis are now deploying them in Yemen.          

 

Contents

 

THE DANGEROUS IMPLICATIONS OF DEMOCRATS’

OBSESSION WITH TRUMP’S YEMEN RAID

                                                       David French

                                            National Review, Mar. 2, 2017

 

On Saturday, December 6, 2014, there was an American commando raid in Yemen. As reported by the New York Times, special forces attacked a village in the southern part of the country in an effort to free hostages, including an American journalist, held by jihadists. But instead of accomplishing what it set out to accomplish, the raid “ended in tragedy”: Terrorists killed two hostages, including the American, and in the ensuing firefight, a number of civilians died. That’s not a scandal; that’s war.

 

Fast-forward to late January of this year. Donald Trump, just nine days after assuming the presidency, ordered a raid into Yemen that had been planned during the Obama administration and endorsed by James Mattis, the new secretary of defense. During the attack, American forces encountered tougher-than-expected resistance, Navy SEAL Ryan Owens was killed, and civilians died in the crossfire. At the end of the attack, American and allied forces took possession of intelligence that may or may not (reports conflict) be valuable to the war against jihad. That’s not a scandal; that’s war.

 

But don’t tell that to the Democrats, to the Trump administration’s most committed critics, or to multiple members of the media, including some who should know better. Suddenly, there is an odd new standard for success or failure in military operations: Special-forces raids are scandalous unless they 1) yield exactly the intelligence or other assets they sought; 2) do so without encountering unexpected resistance; and 3) do not cost any American lives. By that standard, my own deployment to Iraq was one scandal after another. Even though we had boots on the ground, a consistent presence in our area of operations, and access to intelligence from a wide variety of sources, we still encountered surprises and ambushes. Multiple raids “failed” in the sense that we didn’t seize our targets or obtain the information we had hoped to find. Our intelligence “failed” sometimes, with inaccurate assessments of enemy capabilities or intentions leading to deaths. But none of that was scandalous; it was all war.

 

I’ve written at length about the Yemen raid before, but it’s vital to revisit the issue again. In part because of the profound moment in Trump’s address to Congress when he honored Carryn Owens, Ryan Owens’s widow, and in part because of his clumsy and inexcusable effort to deflect blame for Owens’s death to his generals, the Yemen raid is back in the news. And it’s thus vital to establish standards for evaluating and reporting the Trump administration’s military efforts.

 

First, do we really want presidents — especially those with exactly zero military experience — ordering individual raids in the context of ongoing military operations? Obama famously agonized over “kill lists,” reportedly even viewing the faces of targets before issuing his orders. Elevating strike authority to POTUS himself risks not only slowing down military operations, but also placing the decision in the hands of a person with less information and less experience than a professional military trained to identify and destroy our nation’s enemies.

 

Obama’s moral dilemmas made for good newspaper copy, but did they result in the best application of American military power? The rise of ISIS and the spread of jihad suggests that they did not. Second, should Americans really have zero or near-zero tolerance for casualties? It’s a simple fact that the less we risk American forces, the less effective they are. For many good reasons, we’ve delegated much of the fight in Mosul to local allies, but that carries a cost, too. Parts of the city are still in enemy hands, and progress is slow. How much could we speed up the fight (and perhaps capture and kill more enemy fighters) if we put American soldiers closer to the action or empower them to engage the enemy directly?

 

When soldiers enlist, they trust their commanders (including the commander-in-chief) not to throw away their lives carelessly or recklessly, but they know that they could die in the line of duty nevertheless. Americans are allegedly “war-weary” (a strange term for a nation in which only the tiniest fraction of citizens have fought), and we’ve already suffered thousands of casualties abroad, but so long as the enemy still seeks to do us harm, we’re crippling our national defense if we unilaterally decide to fight without loss.

 

Third, when terrorists use civilians as human shields, who’s to blame for the civilian deaths that result? By adopting a near-zero tolerance for civilian casualties (as the Obama administration often did), we incentivize violations of the laws of war, extend combat operations, and risk American life. When jihadists hide behind women and children, they bear the legal and moral responsibility for civilian deaths…

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

 

Contents                                                              

 

On Topic Links

 

Dozens Killed in ISIS Attack on Kabul Military Hospital: Ehsanullah Amiri & Margherita Stancati, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 8, 2017—Islamic State fighters disguised as doctors fought elite government forces inside Afghanistan’s largest military hospital on Wednesday in a seven-hour battle that left at least 30 people dead and 50 others wounded, Afghan officials said.

Why Russia is Returning to Afghanistan: Jeffrey Mankoff, World Politics Review, Feb. 28, 2017—n his speech to the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev described the war in Afghanistan as the USSR’s “bleeding wound.” Gorbachev would order Soviet forces out of Afghanistan two years later. During the subsequent three decades, Soviet and subsequently Russian leaders sought to steer clear of the country that many likened to Moscow’s Vietnam.

Saudis Bankroll Taliban, Even as King Officially Supports Afghan Government: Carlotta Gall, New York Times, Dec. 6, 2016—Fifteen years, half a trillion dollars and 150,000 lives since going to war, the United States is trying to extricate itself from Afghanistan. Afghans are being left to fight their own fight. A surging Taliban insurgency, meanwhile, is flush with a new inflow of money.

How America Lost Afghanistan: Bonnie Kristian, The Week, Mar. 7, 2017—Some 16 years in, the war in Afghanistan is the longest in the history of The United States. It is also our most disproportionately ignored, and — with a new president in office after an election in which Afghanistan was barely mentioned — perhaps our most uncertain major intervention going forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NORTH AFRICA, RAVAGED BY TERRORISM, WELCOMES TRUMP’S STAUNCH ANTI-ISLAMISM

 

A New Policy for North Africa in the Trump Era?: Karim Mezran & Elissa Miller, Realclearworld, Jan. 23, 2017— There has been much speculation across the Middle East and North Africa regarding what U.S. foreign policy in the region will look like under the Trump administration.

Trump Emboldens Egypt's Sisi: Cynthia Farahat, The Hill, Dec. 29, 2016— The recent terror attacks in Berlin and Zurich highlight once again the danger that radical Islamism poses to the West.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia: The End of an Alliance?: Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 21, 2017— 2016 was not a good year for either Egypt or Saudi Arabia, the twin pillars of the Sunni Arab bloc of states.

On Mali, Proceed With Maximum Caution: Editorial, Globe & Mail, Jan. 23, 2017— François Hollande, the French President, visited Mali earlier this month, just a few days before Islamist terrorists carried out a particularly savage attack in that central African country.

 

On Topic Links

 

Egypt Strengthens its Strategic Presence in the Red Sea: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Jan. 10, 2017

Russia Seeks Another Mediterranean Naval Base in Libya: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, Jan. 22, 2017

In Middle East, Leaders Want Donald Trump to Be Their Friend: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 16, 2017

Obama’s Mid-East Legacy Is Tragic Failure: Alan Dershowitz, Algemeiner, Jan. 13, 217

 

 

 

A NEW POLICY FOR NORTH AFRICA IN THE TRUMP ERA?

Karim Mezran & Elissa Miller

Realclearworld, Jan. 23, 2017

 

There has been much speculation across the Middle East and North Africa regarding what U.S. foreign policy in the region will look like under the Trump administration. We can infer some insights from Trump’s comments during the 2016 campaign, from his character, and from the personalities of his recent cabinet appointments. For the Maghreb region of North Africa, the Trump administration will likely continue the same level of engagement as the previous administration, although it will emphasize different policy priorities.

 

Several of the new president’s cabinet appointments, such as retired generals Michael Flynn and James Mattis, have at times articulated a non-interventionist foreign policy, except in cases that directly involve U.S. national security interests. This worldview has parallels with the Obama administration, which had endeavored to pull the United States out of quagmires in the Middle East. However, this global outlook will likely be motivated by a strong security first emphasis that prioritizes the realization of order and stability in foreign countries over support for pluralism and democratization. It could also reflect Trump’s presumed preference for strongmen and authoritative personalities in the region and elsewhere.

 

Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, is an outspoken and well-documented critic not only of Muslim extremism, but also of the religion itself. In an August 2016 speech, the retired three-star general stated that Islam is not a religion but a political ideology, and that Islam is like a “malignant cancer.” Such rhetoric from Trump’s inner circle suggests that the new administration might paint international Islamist organizations with a much broader brush than previous administrations, and in policy terms this could lead to the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood movement as a foreign terrorist organization.

 

North Africa will certainly not be a regional priority for Trump. The only instances in which the real estate mogul mentioned the region during the campaign were in reference to Libya, and then only in regard to the fight against the Islamic State. Still, there is no doubt that the policies of the new administration will have consequences for the countries of the Maghreb.

 

Variation in policy toward Morocco and Algeria will probably be minimal. The Trump administration will likely maintain and strengthen U.S. ties with Rabat even though an Islamist party holds the majority in parliament. This favorable approach to the country is due to the stability of the Moroccan monarchy and the relatively wide consensus that it enjoys. The Trump administration may also strengthen relations with Algeria, which plays a critical role in the maintenance of security and counterterrorism operations in North Africa. President Trump’s focus on stability will be well received by leaders in both countries. For Algeria in particular, this will likely mean more support for cooperation on counterterrorism, which has been a longstanding priority for Algerian policymakers.

 

While U.S. support for Tunisia’s stability will continue in the political development and economic fields, it will be designed through a security lens rather than a focus on democratic development. A security-focused foreign policy will push Trump to emphasize support for the army and the security forces and to aid the country’s counterterrorism efforts. Therefore, even though there is a clear recognition of the importance of economic development for the country’s stability, security assistance will be the main avenue through which the latter is pursued.

 

This will not carry immediate consequences for the foreign policy of Tunisia, which has relied heavily on Western security support, especially since terror attacks in 2015. A strong relationship with the United States benefits the country’s standing in the region and in the international community overall. However, Trump’s policies could have an impact on Tunisian domestic policy. The U.S. administration’s anti-Islamist line may make it difficult for it to work with a Tunisian government in which an Islamist party, Ennahda, plays a strong role. But like in the case of the Moroccan Islamist party, Tunisia’s Ennahda has shown itself able to act in a pluralistic environment and respect the rules of the democratization process. At the same time, Ennahda could have a difficult time in dealing with an openly anti-Islamist administration, but it has made a number of critical compromises in recent years and the party’s leaders recognize the utility of a strong relationship with Trump’s administration.

 

Trump’s foreign policy will likely have the most critical effect on Libya. Trump’s stated support for strongmen and the administration’s anti-Islamist views will likely push the United States, and possibly its key European allies, to support Egypt and its proxy Gen. Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army has been waging a war against Islamists in Libya’s east. Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and his counterterrorism efforts against Islamist extremists. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry recently met with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss shared U.S.-Egypt security efforts. Strong ties between Trump and Sissi could push the administration to throw its support behind Haftar and his anti-Islamist fight and to abandon support for the U.N.-backed process that produced a weak unity government.

 

This could have dire consequences for the situation in Libya. A shift by the international community, led by the United States, could empower and embolden Haftar to expand his authority throughout the country and pursue his hegemonic plans. This could divide the country into two or more zones of influence, or worse, leading to an all-out war between Haftar’s Libyan National Army and its western opponents. This would have a lasting and dangerous effect on the Libyan population, which is already reeling from an economic crisis and sustained turmoil.

 

Trump’s shift in emphasis toward stability and security, while not constituting a wholesale reordering of U.S. policy in the region, will be perceived differently by different stakeholders in each country. Civil society activists, human rights defenders, and democratization supporters will react negatively to what they will perceive as a pro-authoritarian shift, while the middle classes and entrepreneurs will likely welcome the U.S. administration’s support of their own governments’ stabilization efforts.

 

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TRUMP EMBOLDENS EGYPT'S SISI

Cynthia Farahat          

The Hill, Dec. 29, 2016

                       

The recent terror attacks in Berlin and Zurich highlight once again the danger that radical Islamism poses to the West. While many are searching for ways to improve security and defeat the threat on the ground, few appear to appreciate that the decisive blow against Islamism can only be administered by leaders in the Middle East. President-elect Donald Trump pledged during his last major foreign policy speech before the election to "be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East" and "amplify their voices."

 

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and most of the political and media establishment in Egypt warmly embraced this policy. After meeting with the Republican nominee in New York City in September, Sisi told CNN he had "no doubt" Trump would make a strong leader. Sisi was also the first Arab leader to telephone Trump after his election win. Egyptian affections for Trump are partly fueled by distaste for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who many Egyptians believe conspired with the Muslim Brotherhood to help elect Islamist Muhammad Morsi as president in 2012 (after which she was greeted in Egypt with protestors hurling tomatoes).

 

However, the main attraction of Trump in the eyes of many Egyptians is his staunch anti-Islamism. Since coming to power in 2013, Sisi has spoken passionately about the need for an Islamic reformation. For Sisi, Islamism isn't merely a ruinously bad blueprint for modern governance and a chronic source of security threats, it is also a wedge fueling outside hostility to Muslims, both Islamists and non-Islamists alike. In a 2015 New Year's Day speech at al-Azhar University, the world's most prestigious seat of Sunni Islamic learning, Sisi warned that the "corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years" are "antagonizing the entire world" and "caus[ing] the entire umma [Muslim world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction."

 

Not surprisingly, Sisi has faced opposition in the region, especially from Turkey, Qatar, and powerful figures in the Saudi royal family, who have opened their media to Brotherhood operatives to attack Sisi and even call for his assassination. One of the only Arab governments openly backing Sisi's uncompromising stance on Islamists is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which in 2014 designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization (along with two of its U.S.-based affiliates, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society).

 

Within Egypt, Sisi's calls for a religious revolution have made him extremely popular, but he has faced fierce resistance from Islamists, who still dominate many sectors of Egyptian civil society and exert influence in government, particularly the judiciary.

 

Sisi's supporters say the Obama administration's tolerance of Islamism and harsh criticism of Egypt's counter-terrorism efforts have been an enormous obstacle. In contrast, Trump's campaign expressed "strong support for Egypt's war on terrorism" and pledged that "under a Trump Administration, the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on in the days and years ahead." Walid Phares, a foreign policy advisor for the president-elect, stated in an interview that Trump will work to pass legislation designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

 

Trump's election appears to have emboldened Sisi to step up his Islamic reformation campaign. Just days later, Sisi pardoned 82 prisoners, among them Islam Behery, a former TV host and prominent leader of a growing neo-Mu'tazilah-style movement that claims Islamic scriptures are man-made and should not overrule reason and critical thinking. Behery's movement has gained sweeping popularity as horrors committed by Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, and other Sunni jihadist groups have mounted in recent years.

 

Many across the Arab world, and Egyptians in particular, are hopeful that the election of Donald Trump will open a new page of cooperation between the United States and those who are seeking to challenge Islamic extremism in the war of ideas. Only together can we defeat the Islamists wreaking carnage on the streets in the West.

           

 

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EGYPT AND SAUDI ARABIA: THE END OF AN ALLIANCE?

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 21, 2017

 

2016 was not a good year for either Egypt or Saudi Arabia, the twin pillars of the Sunni Arab bloc of states. Three years after taking power, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s initial popularity has waned as Egypt’s intractable economic and social problems weighed more heavily on the populace, sparking criticism of the regime, even in the usually pro-government media.

 

Sisi’s call for the populace to tighten their belts and remain patient rang increasingly hollow, as Egyptians confronted acute shortages and high prices of staples such as sugar, rice and cooking oil, a cut in fuel subsidies and a devaluation of the Egyptian pound.

 

The armed forces’ failure to stamp out ISIS-affiliated insurgency in Sinai was disturbing enough, but then jihadist violence hit home on December 11 with the bloody bombing of a Coptic church, next to the main cathedral in central Cairo. The resulting anger against the authorities’ alleged laxness was palpable.

 

Saudi Arabia’s troubles were multiple as well. The precipitous drop in oil prices and lack of meaningful jobs for its youthful and increasingly educated population was calling into question the viability of the country’s traditional policies of providing heavily subsidized goods and services in return for strict political quiescence.

 

The regional outlook was especially bleak, as Shi’ite Iran’s assertiveness loomed large and the Saudi effort to counter it foundered. The US-led international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program was seen in Riyadh as a victory for Tehran; the Saudi-led war in Yemen against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels was stalemated, and faced increasingly strident international condemnation of the civilian casualties caused by indiscriminate Saudi air force bombings; and in Syria, Russian and Iranian support had conferred advantage to the Assad regime’s bitter battle against the Syrian rebel groups who are largely funded by the Saudis and other Gulf Arab states, highlighted by the successful siege of rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

 

Over the last quarter-century, Egypt and Saudi Arabia had broadly worked in tandem: Egypt had provided the crucial Arab participation in the Saudi-Western coalition against Saddam Hussain in 1990-91, while Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies had provided tens of billions of dollars in vital aid to Sisi’s regime. However, the Egyptian and Saudi leaderships did not draw closer together to jointly combat their difficulties. In fact, relations have deteriorated significantly in recent months, reaching a nadir not seen since the partial Arab boycott of Egypt during the 1980s, as punishment for Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

 

To be sure, the Egyptian-Saudi alliance had never been friction- free. Egypt’s self-view as the Arab world’s natural leader was increasingly at odds with its deep-seated internal problems and the financial might of the Saudis and smaller Gulf principalities. Mutual sensitivities burst forth this past April, when Sisi sought to transfer two small islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba to Saudi sovereignty as a gesture of thanks for Saudi support. The resulting public outcry and judicial intervention scuttled the move, to the Saudis’ extreme annoyance.

 

No less annoying was Egypt’s refusal to participate in the Saudi-led military operations in Yemen. And most significant of all was Egypt’s tilt in recent months toward the Assad regime in Syria and its Russian patron.

 

The simmering Egyptian-Saudi tension burst into full view in mid-October when Egypt voted in favor of Russia’s draft resolution in the Security Council that emphasized that the battle for Aleppo was a fight against “terrorism,” in line with the Assad regime’s master narrative. Saudi anger was palpable. The very next day, shipment of Saudi petrol products to Egypt was suspended, and the two countries’ medias unleashed blistering attacks against each other’s leaders. Matters have since escalated further, as Sisi openly declared his support for the Syrian army as the backbone of a unified Syrian state; Saudi Arabia feted a high-profile Ethiopian government delegation – a direct slap to Egypt, in light of the current tensions between Addis Ababa and Cairo over the completion of a new Ethiopian dam on the upper Nile; and a UAE effort to arrange a reconciliation meeting in Abu Dhabi between Sisi and Salman failed, owing to Saudi recalcitrance.

 

Strategically, the two countries continue to share an interest in counterbalancing Iranian power in the region, and Riyadh has a fundamental interest in helping Egypt cope with its economic difficulties. But Sisi’s expressed preference for a united “Arab” Syria and a strengthening of ties with Russia, as part of an effort to reassert Egyptian regional influence, clash sharply with Saudi priorities, particularly those of the young Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman. These differences and mutual sensitivities suggest that repairing the relationship won’t be a simple matter.

 

           

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ON MALI, PROCEED WITH MAXIMUM CAUTION

Editorial

Globe & Mail, Jan. 23, 2017

               

François Hollande, the French President, visited Mali earlier this month, just a few days before Islamist terrorists carried out a particularly savage attack in that central African country.

 

That ought to be a vivid reminder of the risks that the Trudeau government may be taking before long in Mali, too. The Liberal Party promised in its election platform to revive Canadian peacekeeping, and it is now expected that the government will send as many as 600 troops to Mali this year to support a beleaguered United Nations mission there.

 

They will be walking into a war zone. The jihadi terrorist attack in the northern part of Mali killed more than 70 people at a camp housing pro-government forces. Last year, at least 17 UN peacekeepers were killed in terrorist attacks; 68 have been killed since the mission began in 2013.

 

The UN mission to Mali is not the peacekeeping of old, in which troops wearing blue helmets kept warring factions apart but were largely insulated from any fighting. In northern Mali, there are at least five terrorist groups in operation, and they are happy to target anyone they associate with the government.

 

As well, a chief aspect of the UN mission is to protect civilians, which means personnel are allowed to conduct pre-emptive strikes against militants. But few, if any, of the Canadians would be experienced in this semi-desert warfare – this country’s fraught mission to Afghanistan would be the closest equivalent.

 

President Hollande’s commitment to Mali is rooted in the former French empire in Africa. Canadian companies do have mining interests in Mali, but that has little or nothing to do with the notion of Canadian military personnel in that country.

 

Canada may be on the verge of putting many of our soldiers in harm’s way in a country where we don’t have an interest that would merit such a move. In fact, the only discernible motivation is Ottawa’s desire to re-establish Canada as a peacekeeping nation, after the previous government backed away from that role.

 

How many young Canadians will have to die or be injured in order to fulfill this election promise? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan should exercise real caution, rather than getting too caught up in uplifting notions.

 

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On Topic Links

 

Egypt Strengthens its Strategic Presence in the Red Sea: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Jan. 10, 2017—Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi inaugurated on January 4, 2017, the new headquarters of Egypt's southern naval fleet command in Safaga on the country's Red Sea coast during his visit to the Port of Safaga Development Project which cost EGP 510 million (approximately USD 28 million).

Russia Seeks Another Mediterranean Naval Base in Libya: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, Jan. 22, 2017—In recent months, Russia has been ramping up its involvement in the Libyan sociopolitical crisis, which has been ongoing since the removal of its ruler, Muammar Qaddafi. Russia has been strengthening its ties with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who heads the LNA (the Libyan National Army), one of the many military militias operating in Libya, and opposes the country’s official government.

In Middle East, Leaders Want Donald Trump to Be Their Friend: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 16, 2017—It is hard to find a Middle Eastern official betraying signs of anxiety over what President-elect Donald Trump will do once in office.

Obama’s Mid-East Legacy Is Tragic Failure: Alan Dershowitz, Algemeiner, Jan. 13, 2017 —The Middle East is a more dangerous place after eight years of the Obama Presidency than it was before. The eight disastrous Obama years follow eight disastrous Bush years during which that part of the world became more dangerous as well. So have many other international hot spots. In sum, the past 16 years have seen major foreign policy blunders all over the world, and most especially in the area between Libya and Iran, that includes Israel, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and the Gulf.