Tag: Taliban

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]

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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.

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.                                                   

 

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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.

                                                           

 

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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.]

                                                                       

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFGHANISTAN VS. PAKISTAN & THE THREAT OF ISLAMIC EXTREMISM

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

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

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

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

 

On Topic Links

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

THE DILEMMA OF PAKISTAN’S FOREIGN POLICY

Muhammad Akbar Notezai             

          The Diplomat, Aug. 12, 2016

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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PAKISTAN: THE REBIRTH OF JIHAD

Umer Ali

The Diplomat, Aug. 18, 2016

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

                                                    

Contents                                                                                                                                           AFGHANISTAN IS FINALLY STANDING UP TO PAKISTAN        

                                                Adam Gallagher

The National Interest, Aug. 4, 2016

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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AFGHANISTAN STILL HASN’T RECOVERED FROM THE SOVIET INVASION

Shawn Snow                                   

The National Interest, Jul. 31, 2016

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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On Topic Links

 

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

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

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

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

TALIBAN RESURGENCE UNDERMINES LENGTHY, & COSTLY, U.S. AFGHAN RECONSTRUCTION

The Taliban Attack in Kabul and Afghanistan’s Devolution: Michael Kugelman, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 19, 2016— The consequences of a stalled Afghan peace process were violently illustrated Tuesday morning when the Taliban detonated a truck bomb outside a government facility in Kabul less than a mile from the presidential palace.

The Taliban Three Years After Mullah Omar: Catherine Hirst, Real Clear World, Apr. 28, 2016 — This month marks the three year anniversary of the death of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the infamous, one-eyed cleric who led the Taliban for more than sixteen years.

We Wasted $113B in Afghanistan, no Wonder ‘America First’ Resonates: Paul Sperry, New York Post, May 15, 2016— While Donald Trump took a lot of heat for his recent “America First” speech, which foreign-policy experts rejected as “isolationist,” a scathing new Pentagon report on Afghan reconstruction backs his stance against nation-building.

For Obama, an Unexpected Legacy of Two Full Terms at War: Mark Landler, New York Times, May 14, 2016 — President Obama came into office seven years ago pledging to end the wars of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

 

On Topic Links

 

Taliban Cut Off Afghan Highway Linking Kabul to Northern Gateways: Rod Nordland, New York Times, May 14, 2016

Taliban Suicide Attack in Kabul Renews Debate on Afghanistan Troop Cuts: Carlo Munoz, Washington Times, Apr. 19, 2016

John Kerry: Afghanistan One of 'Proudest Achievements of the Obama Administration': Jeryl Bier, Weekly Standard, May 16, 2016

Spring on the Afghan Front Lines: Danielle Moylan, New York Times, May 6, 2016

 

 

THE TALIBAN ATTACK IN KABUL AND AFGHANISTAN’S DEVOLUTION                                        

Michael Kugelman                                                                                     

Wall Street Journal, Apr. 19, 2016

 

The consequences of a stalled Afghan peace process were violently illustrated Tuesday morning when the Taliban detonated a truck bomb outside a government facility in Kabul less than a mile from the presidential palace. The 9 a.m. blast, the terrorist organization’s way of signaling the start of its new fighting season, killed at least 30 people and injured more than 300 others.

 

An Afghan police commander on the scene said, “First it felt like an earthquake, and then came the powerful sound of the explosion,” the Guardian reported. A wounded witness quoted in the New York Times that he saw “people lying on the road hopelessly—some screaming, other silently giving out their last breath, and some already dead.”

 

The rush-hour assault came two days after the United Nations said that civilian casualties in Afghanistan for the first three months of 2016 were 2% higher than in the same period of 2015. There were more than 11,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan last year—the highest number since 2001. And the Taliban holds more territory than it has at any time since 2001.

 

Beleaguered Afghan security forces, no longer assisted by foreign combat forces, have struggled to suppress a relentless insurgency. Despite improvements in war-fighting capacity and sustained efforts, the overall trend is not in their favor. In many far-flung regions the Afghan government has outsourced security responsibilities to undisciplined anti-Taliban militias. Meanwhile, the national government in Kabul is united only in name; constant infighting has bred dysfunction and hampered efforts to address the insurgency.

 

Afghanistan is likely to be in for a long and bloody year, a prospect that has implications for regional and global stability, especially if Afghanistan’s destabilization enables al Qaeda to establish new sanctuaries. Al Qaeda remains a force to be reckoned with not only in the Middle East and North Africa but also in Afghanistan. In October U.S. forces destroyed what Gen. John F. Campbell, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, described as “probably the largest” al Qaeda training camp found since U.S. troops arrived in 2001. For Afghans, the growing instability has direct and immediate consequences. In the hours after the attack on Tuesday, hundreds descended on hospitals to donate blood; social media posts of their efforts, some noted, are proof of the resilience of Afghan society.

 

But resilience alone cannot defeat the Taliban. Nor can it resolve Afghanistan’s economic crisis or rein in widespread corruption. This is partly why many Afghans are leaving their country; more than 200,000 were among the refugees flowing into Europe last year, according to the U.N., and others have fled elsewhere. Many are young, educated, and middle class—a demographic that would otherwise make vital contributions to Afghanistan’s struggling economy. This exodus—as understandable as it is unfortunate—makes the Afghan government’s job tougher while further strengthening an emboldened Taliban.     

 

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THE TALIBAN THREE YEARS AFTER MULLAH OMAR

Catherine Hirst

Real Clear World, Apr. 28, 2016

 

This month marks the three year anniversary of the death of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the infamous, one-eyed cleric who led the Taliban for more than sixteen years. Omar was a fascinating figure on many fronts. Famously reclusive and enigmatic, no Western journalist ever met him and he wasn't seen in public after 2001. Under his rule, a stringent formulation of Shariah Law was implemented in Afghanistan, including amputation for theft and stoning for adultery. A veteran of the Soviet-Afghan war, Omar and Osama bin Laden were close colleagues and this was an important factor in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan. After the fall of the Taliban, Omar managed to evade capture for twelve years, despite an intensive US-led manhunt and a $US10 million bounty. He died of natural causes in 2013.

 

Beyond his notorious exploits, influence, and the mysteries that surround him, Omar's life and death provide fascinating insights into the role of individual leaders in the Jihadi system. Omar commanded almost mythic status as the spiritual and political leader of the Taliban. He was referred to by his followers as Amir al-Mu'minin (Leader of the faithful), the prestigious title used by Islamic Caliphs throughout history. His authority extended beyond the Taliban; Al-Qaeda and other regional Islamist groups were also loyal.

 

The legitimacy vested in Omar as leader of the Taliban was such that his death was (rather successfully) concealed for more than two years by a small group of high-ranking Taliban members. When the news of Omar's death broke in July 2015, some commentators asserted that the Taliban was facing a ‘legitimacy crisis', that the Taliban and other Afghan and Pakistani Jihadi factions could fracture, and that his death had broken the back of the Taliban.

 

This has not been the case. Contesting or in control of at least one-fifth of Afghanistan, the Taliban currently holds more territory than at any point since the 2001 invasion. It has even made significant inroads into the opium-rich Helmand province, now controlling seven of the thirteen districts, and threatening the provincial capital Lashkar Gah. Last week heralded the deadliest suicide attack since 2011, with the Taliban killing 30 and wounding more than 300 people in the Afghan capital Kabul.

 

There are many reasons for the recent resurgence of the Taliban, and Omar is not one of them. Although a significant amount of prestige, legitimacy and power were indeed concentrated in the former Taliban leader, the degree of this concentration and its long-term impact on the organisation has been overstated. Recent gains made by the Taliban show that experienced deputies (such as Mullah Mansour), a breadth of strategic expertise (as represented in the 21-man Rabari Shura or leadership council), multiple revenue streams, the support of foreign fighters (largely Uzbeks and Pakistanis), and a local support base are all important reasons why Jihadist groups can remain resilient despite leadership change.

 

The experience of the Taliban resonates with other Jihadi organisations and their leadership. Al-Qaeda has been making gains in Afghanistan in spite of Osama bin Laden's death in 2011, defying predictions this would be a crippling blow. Similarly, al-Shabab is faring surprisingly well despite the assassination of its charismatic leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, in September 2014. Predictions that his death would mark the beginning of the end for the group have not been borne out. Al-Shabab has ramped up its attacks over the last 12 months, and has shown remarkable resilience and adaptability in the face of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), Somali Government and US assaults.

 

Despite the mythic status of many Jihadi leaders, heads are rarely indispensable to their organisations. Leaders are important, but they can be replaced. Ironically, the fact the Taliban has prospered after Omar's death is a testament to how formidable a leader he was.          

                                                                       

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WE WASTED $113B IN AFGHANISTAN,

NO WONDER ‘AMERICA FIRST’ RESONATES

Paul Sperry

 New York Post, May 15, 2016

 

While Donald Trump took a lot of heat for his recent “America First” speech, which foreign-policy experts rejected as “isolationist,” a scathing new Pentagon report on Afghan reconstruction backs his stance against nation-building. In virtually every category — from infrastructure to education to security — our virtual adoption of that nation has been a costly fiasco. In a report to Congress, the Defense Department reveals that Washington so far has spent an eye-popping $113.2 billion to rebuild Afghanistan — an amount that, adjusted for inflation, tops by $10 billion the total we committed to rebuilding post-WWII Europe under the Marshall Plan. Yet in this case, taxpayers have almost nothing to show for it.

 

Much of the Afghan reconstruction funds have been lost to waste, fraud, abuse and rampant corruption. And unlike Western Europe, where we today enjoy profitable export markets, benighted Afghanistan (formally renamed the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) offers virtually zero return on our massive investment. After 15 years, “The reconstruction effort in Afghanistan is in a perilous state,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko concludes in his 236-page report.

 

The reconstruction mishaps in Iraq are legion and legendary. But less is known about the rebuilding of Afghanistan, where the screw-ups are just as bad, if not worse. Take security projects and programs, which account for roughly 60% of the $113 billion in Afghan reconstruction funding. Despite spending some $5 billion a year to stand up a national army and police force, “neither the United States nor its Afghan allies know how many Afghan soldiers and police actually exist,” the report says. A large share are AWOL. In fact, Afghan military and police rolls contain potentially tens of thousands of “ghost” personnel, whose cost we still pay and whose absence distorts the security picture. Without US combat troops, the capital of Kabul is now relying almost exclusively on unreliable forces to defend itself from sacking.

 

A large chunk of the country remains unprotected and unstable. Almost a third of provincial districts are effectively under Taliban control, and the insurgency is intensifying. In the space of just a few days in late March, for example, the Taliban assassinated an Afghan army general in Kandahar and a judge in Ghazni, while bombarding the new Afghan parliament building in Kabul with rockets. The security situation is so bad that American personnel are generally confined to the US Embassy fortress, and have to take a helicopter to get to the airport because the roads are so unsafe. Bombings, raids, ambushes and hit-and-run assaults are common along major highways, even at police checkpoints.

 

American taxpayers are losing huge amounts of money thanks to corrupt and incompetent Afghan military contractors, who have misappropriated Pentagon funds. Here are just a few examples:  More than $200 million to buy fuel for army vehicles has gone missing. Another half-billion dollars was wasted buying a fleet of second-hand Air Force cargo planes that were deemed too dangerous to fly. More than $1 million was spent building and rebuilding army buildings that “melted” in the rain and crumbled because of substandard bricks and other materials. About $32 million to install steel bars in culverts to prevent the Taliban from placing bombs under roads was also largely wasted.  Many of the bars were installed incorrectly or never installed at all, likely resulting in US troop deaths or injuries, according to the report.

 

Efforts at drug interdiction have also failed. Despite spending $8.4 billion on counter-narcotics programs, the poppy fields of Helmand province have largely been reclaimed by the Taliban, which sells opium to finance terrorism. The opium trade, in fact, is flourishing. Here’s a stomach-turning stat: The 3,300 tons of opium the United Nations figured Afghanistan produced last year is the same number the UN calculated for the country’s opium production in 2000. So literally nothing has changed.

 

And despite spending $1 billion promoting Western-style democracy and human rights, harsh religious mandates still dominate Afghanistan, where Islamic law is still considered the supreme law. Girls are still forced into marriage with older men, women are still jailed for “moral crimes,” and both remain wrapped up in the oppressive burka. Despite spending $760 million improving Afghan education, moreover, 3.5 million primary-school-age children — 75% of them girls — remain out of school. Recently, some 714 schools were closed. “Nonexistent or ghost teachers have been a long-standing problem and, in most cases, attendance sheets are not filled out or are frequently forged,” the report said. The inspector general also found fully-staffed schools attended by only a handful of students…

 

Washington nation-builders had projected they’d add $1.3 billion in growth to the Afghan economy in 2015. But no such boost has occurred. In fact, Afghan GDP actually fell to $19.7 billion in 2015 from $20.4 billion in 2014. Nation-building in Afghanistan has been a boondoggle for US taxpayers. Yet in his fiscal year 2017 budget, President Obama calls for an additional $4.8 billion for major reconstruction funds there. Why throw good money after bad? Trump’s right: let’s stop nation-building overseas and start rebuilding the US.

                                                                                   

 

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FOR OBAMA, AN UNEXPECTED LEGACY OF                                                     

TWO FULL TERMS AT WAR                                                                        

Mark Landler                                                                                            

New York Times, May 14, 2016

 

President Obama came into office seven years ago pledging to end the wars of his predecessor, George W. Bush. On May 6, with eight months left before he vacates the White House, Mr. Obama passed a somber, little-noticed milestone: He has now been at war longer than Mr. Bush, or any other American president.

 

If the United States remains in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria until the end of Mr. Obama’s term — a near-certainty given the president’s recent announcement that he will send 250 additional Special Operations forces to Syria — he will leave behind an improbable legacy as the only president in American history to serve two complete terms with the nation at war. Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and spent his years in the White House trying to fulfill the promises he made as an antiwar candidate, would have a longer tour of duty as a wartime president than Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon or his hero Abraham Lincoln.

 

Granted, Mr. Obama is leaving far fewer soldiers in harm’s way — at least 4,087 in Iraq and 9,800 in Afghanistan — than the 200,000 troops he inherited from Mr. Bush in the two countries. But Mr. Obama has also approved strikes against terrorist groups in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, for a total of seven countries where his administration has taken military action. “No president wants to be a war president,” said Eliot A. Cohen, a military historian at Johns Hopkins University who backed the war in Iraq and whose son served there twice. “Obama thinks of war as an instrument he has to use very reluctantly. But we’re waging these long, rather strange wars. We’re killing lots of people. We’re taking casualties.”

 

Mr. Obama has wrestled with this immutable reality from his first year in the White House, when he went for a walk among the tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery before giving the order to send 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan. His closest advisers say he has relied so heavily on limited covert operations and drone strikes because he is mindful of the dangers of escalation and has long been skeptical that American military interventions work.

 

Publicly, Mr. Obama acknowledged early on the contradiction between his campaign message and the realities of governing. When he accepted the Nobel in December 2009, he declared that humanity needed to reconcile “two seemingly irreconcilable truths — that war is sometimes necessary, and war at some level is an expression of human folly.” The president has tried to reconcile these truths by approaching his wars in narrow terms, as a chronic but manageable security challenge rather than as an all-consuming national campaign, in the tradition of World War II or, to a lesser degree, Vietnam. The longevity of his war record, military historians say, also reflects the changing definition of war.

 

“It’s the difference between being a war president and a president at war,” said Derek Chollet, who served in the State Department and the White House during Mr. Obama’s first term and as the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 2012 to 2015. “Being a war president means that all elements of American power and foreign policy are subservient to fighting the war,” Mr. Chollet said. “What Obama has tried to do, which is why he’s careful about ratcheting up the number of forces, is not to have it overwhelm other priorities.”

 

But Mr. Obama has found those conflicts maddeningly hard to end. On Oct. 21, 2011, he announced that the last combat soldier would leave Iraq by the end of that year, drawing that eight-year war to a close. “Our troops will definitely be home for the holidays,” Mr. Obama said at the White House. Less than three years later, he told a national television audience that he would send 475 military advisers back to Iraq to help in the battle against the Islamic State, the brutal terrorist group that swept into the security vacuum left by the absent Americans. By last month, more than 5,000 American troops were in Iraq. A furious firefight this month between Islamic State fighters and Navy SEALs in northern Iraq, in which Special Warfare Operator First Class Charles Keating IV became the third American to die since the campaign against the Islamic State began, harked back to the bloodiest days of the Iraq war. It also made the administration’s argument that the Americans were only advising and assisting Iraqi forces seem ever less plausible.

 

Afghanistan followed a similar cycle of hope and disappointment. In May 2014, Mr. Obama announced that the United States would withdraw the last combat soldier from the country by the end of 2016. “Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,” the president said in the Rose Garden. “Yet this is how wars end in the 21st century.” Seventeen months later, Mr. Obama halted the withdrawal, telling Americans that he planned to leave more than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan until early 2017, the end of his presidency. By then, the Taliban controlled more territory in the country than at any time since 2001.

 

Taliban fighters even briefly conquered the northern city of Kunduz. In the bitter battle for control, an American warplane mistakenly fired its missiles into a Doctors Without Borders hospital, killing 42 people and prompting accusations that the United States had committed a war crime. Critics of Mr. Obama have long said his clinical approach to wars weakened the ability of the nation to fight them. “He hasn’t tried to mobilize the country,” Dr. Cohen said. “He hasn’t even tried to explain to the country what the stakes are, why these wars have gone the way they have.” Mr. Bush was also criticized for failing to ask the American people to make any sacrifices during the Iraq war. But, Dr. Cohen said, “for all his faults, with Bush, there was this visceral desire to win.”

 

Vincent DeGeorge, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University who collected the data on presidents at war, said Mr. Obama’s tone mattered less than the decisions he made. “Does the rhetoric a president uses at home matter to the soldiers who come back wounded or get caught in the crossfire?” he asked in an interview. Mr. DeGeorge acknowledged the complications in measuring Mr. Obama’s wars. The American-led phase of the Afghanistan war, for example, ended formally in December 2014, though thousands of troops remain there. For his analysis, he considered a state of war to exist when less than a month passed between either American casualties or an American airstrike.

 

More so than Mr. Bush or President Bill Clinton, Mr. Obama has fought a multifront war against militants. Officials at the Pentagon referred to the situation as “the new normal.” But for those who worked in the Obama administration, it made for an unrelenting experience. “As the Middle East coordinator, I certainly felt like it was a wartime pace,” said Philip H. Gordon, who worked in the White House from 2013 to 2015. Still, Mr. Gordon and other former officials drew a distinction between the wars of the 21st century and those of the 20th century. For one, Congress has not specifically authorized any of Mr. Obama’s military campaigns, let alone issued a declaration of war — something that it has not done since World War II. “War doesn’t exist anymore, in our official vocabulary,” Mr. Gordon said.

 

It is not clear that Mr. Obama’s successor will take the same approach. The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, has been more receptive to conventional military engagements than Mr. Obama. The presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, has pledged to bomb the Islamic State into oblivion, though he has sent contradictory messages about his willingness to dispatch American ground troops into foreign conflicts.

 

Military historians said presidents would probably continue to shrink or stretch the definition of war to suit their political purposes. “Neither Clinton nor Obama identified themselves as war presidents, but Bush did,” said Richard H. Kohn, professor emeritus of history and peace, war and defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “War goes back in human experience thousands of years,” he said. “We know that it has an enormous variation of definitions.”

 

Contents           

On Topic Links

 

Taliban Cut Off Afghan Highway Linking Kabul to Northern Gateways: Rod Nordland, New York Times, May 14, 2016—Taliban insurgents have cut the main highway that links the capital with northern Afghanistan and neighboring countries for the past three days, according to Afghan officials in the area.

Taliban Suicide Attack in Kabul Renews Debate on Afghanistan Troop Cuts: Carlo Munoz, Washington Times, Apr. 19, 2016—A devastating Taliban suicide attack that killed at least 28 people and wounded more than 300 others Tuesday in the heart of Kabul has sent concerns soaring that Afghanistan’s struggling security forces will be overmatched in the summer fighting season, which many believe will be among the bloodiest on record.

John Kerry: Afghanistan One of 'Proudest Achievements of the Obama Administration': Jeryl Bier, Weekly Standard, May 16, 2016—Secretary of State John Kerry recently spoke at the Oxford Union and addressed a range of issues from climate change to extremism to political corruption. During the question and answer after Kerry's remarks, one audience member asked the secretary of state to name the "proudest achievements of the Obama administration" now that President Obama's eight years in office are coming to an end.

Spring on the Afghan Front Lines: Danielle Moylan, New York Times, May 6, 2016 — Spring becomes Babaji, a rural suburb of Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern province of Helmand. Light-green wheat fields grow waist-high, and narrow irrigation canals run almost clear. “It’s beautiful,” I told Mohammad Sahi, 21, an officer in the Afghan national police, as we stood on a sagging thatched roof in the afternoon sun.

 

                    

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

THE WEEK THAT WAS: MOSUL FALLS, BAGHDAD THREATENED; O.: “NO BOOTS, BUT BERGDAHL O.K.” —IRAN THREATENS INTERVENTION, 175,000 SYRIANS DEAD; MEANWHILE, JERUSALEM REMAINS VIBRANT & PEACEFUL OASIS

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

Iraqi Insurgents Boast They’re Building an Arab Super-State: Lee Smith, Tablet, June 12, 2013— In seizing Mosul, Tikrit and other northern Iraqi cities over the last 48 hours, the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham has moved closer to what some Middle East experts believe is the organization’s end goal—to create an emirate, an Islamic rump-state, encompassing large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Pragmatism, Obama and the Bergdahl Swap: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, June 10, 2014— US President Barack Obama is an artist of political propaganda.

Free Bowe Bergdahl, Then Try Him: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, June 5, 2014— What is it with Susan Rice and the Sunday morning talk shows?

Jerusalem’s ‘One-Shekel’ Mayor is Adamant About One Thing: The City Must Never Be Divided: Joseph Brean, National Post, June 8, 2014 — Nir Barkat, the software entrepreneur in his second term as mayor of Jerusalem, is known as a “one-shekel mayor” because he takes a nominal salary, pays his own expenses, and makes a point of describing his constituents as “customers.”

 

On Topic Links

 

Maliki’s Iraq Disaster: David Ignatius, Washington Post, June 12, 2014

Iraq is on the Brink, But the U.S. is Not to Blame: Fred Kaplan, National Post, June 13, 2014

P.O.W. Deal Gives Qatar a Victory, and a New Test: Rod Nordland & Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, June 6, 2013

The Other Captive Americans–Will Obama Trade For Them?: William McGurn, New York Post, June 13, 2014

50th Anniversary of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Reunites Tevye’s Many Daughters: Melinda Henneberger, Washington Post, June 13, 2014

                                            

IRAQI INSURGENTS BOAST THEY’RE

BUILDING AN ARAB SUPER-STATE                                                             

Lee Smith                                                                                                               

Tablet, June 12, 2014

 

In seizing Mosul, Tikrit and other northern Iraqi cities over the last 48 hours, the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham has moved closer to what some Middle East experts believe is the organization’s end goal—to create an emirate, an Islamic rump-state, encompassing large parts of Iraq and Syria. This, some fear, is a symptom of the region-wide sectarian war, from Beirut to Baghdad, threatening to jeopardize the Arab state system and crash the borders imposed by the British and French with the demise of the Ottoman Empire. Certainly, ISIS is boasting as much. Its propaganda outlets claim the organization is in the process of restoring the caliphate, and erasing the lines secretly drawn by French diplomat François George-Picot and his British counterpart Mark Sykes before the end of World War I.

 

Still, it’s worth putting ISIS’s claims, and the predictions of Middle East experts, in context. The reality is that virtually every Arab political movement of the last century (or at least since London and Paris agreed on the Sykes-Picot lines in 1916) has attempted to eliminate the boundaries drawn by the Great Powers. Indeed, Arab nationalism itself is nothing more than the conviction that the Arabs constitute one great historical nation, divided only by a series of imperial overlords, from the Mongols through the Ottomans up to the Western powers, most recently the United States and Israel. The destiny of the Arabs then is to reunite and thereby overcome the divisions, and borders, forced on them by foreigners.

 

Accordingly, various political movements have manipulated the conceit of Arab unity largely for the purpose of empowering themselves at the expense of rivals. Consider, for instance, Gamal abdel-Nasser, the Arab nationalist hero par excellence. For a brief period, the Egyptian president “erased” Sykes-Picot when he joined his country to Syria to create the United Arab Republic. This combined entity was a formidable affair—until it crashed after only three years on the rocks of Egyptian-Syrian enmity, and Damascus withdrew from the portmanteau state. Nasser promoted himself as a champion of Arab nationalism for no other reason than to enflame the passions of the Arab masses across the region and direct them against his Arab rivals, especially the conservative, or pro-U.S. states, like Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, who, said Nasser, betrayed the Arab cause. In other words, Nasser used pan-Arabism to promote his interests and those of Egypt in particular, not of the Arabs as a whole.

 

Baathism, a rival of Nasserism, was a secular doctrine also arguing for the oneness of the Arabs. And yet Baathism’s two major parties in Damascus and Baghdad were perpetually at each other’s throats, from the 1960s up until the fall of Saddam Hussein, as each sought to keep the other off balance. That is, while Baathism had promised to erase the colonial borders of Sykes-Picot, both the Syrian and Iraqi branches were willing to die and kill each other for the interests of regimes ruling states whose lines were drawn by foreigners.

 

The same fractiousness is equally true for another Arab nationalist doctrine, albeit one with a religious coloring—Islamism. Long before ISIS planted its flag to claim a caliphate, the Muslim Brotherhood was there first, promising its adherents a political order that would unite Arabs from North Africa to the Persian Gulf under the banner of the prophet of Islam. Nonetheless, Muslim Brotherhood chapters around the region, and even sometimes within states, are in constant competition with each other. As for the likelihood of Islamists erasing Sykes-Picot, Egypt’s former president, the now-imprisoned Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi, wasn’t even able to hold on to power in Cairo, never mind build a caliphate.

 

In short, despite all the pan-Arab ideologies, both secular and religious, that have promised to do away with the borders imposed by the Western powers and build a new pan-Arab super state, or an Islamic caliphate, nationalism is still a powerful force in the Arabic-speaking Middle East—as is Sykes-Picot. Consider, for instance, the standard-bearers of the region’s most famous national movement: the Palestinians. Yasser Arafat didn’t settle for cantons or a rump-state, and neither will Mahmoud Abbas—they want the entirety of at least that part of Mandate Palestine stretching from the West Bank of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, now called Israel. In 1970, King Hussein of Jordan vanquished the PLO when Arafat made a play for the eastern half of Mandate Palestine, what used to be called Transjordan, as well.

 

The Sykes-Picot borders are still live issues—in part because they are based on living historical traditions, as evidenced by ISIS’s name. Bilad al-Sham, or “country of the north,” is how many Arabs refer to what is now called Syria, which with its capital in Damascus was home to the Umayyad empire (661-750 CE). The Iraqi capital, Baghdad, was the home of the dynasty that followed the Umayyad caliphs, the Abassids (750-1258). The Sykes-Picot lines were drawn in the full knowledge that Arab unity was a myth—a dangerous myth that left unchecked would inspire regional actors to ambitious feats of conquest. Instead, boxed in by borders, Arab despots from Nasser to Syria’s Assad regime had to settle for sabotage and subterfuge. Arab efforts to redraw Sykes-Picot, like Saddam’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, have been rebuffed by the Western powers. Likewise, it’s those same Western states that are responsible for redrawing the only real new borders in the region. For instance, by establishing a no-fly zone in northern Iraq, the United States effectively drew the lines for what today has become an autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq. Moreover, consider that over the last sixty-plus years no regional state has redrawn its own borders, and those of its neighbors, more than Israel, the country that Arab nationalists call an outpost of Western imperialism…

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

 

 

Contents
                                  

PRAGMATISM, OBAMA AND THE BERGDAHL SWAP

Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, June 10, 2014

 

US President Barack Obama is an artist of political propaganda. Both his greatest admirers and his most vociferous opponents agree that his ability to manipulate public opinion has no peer in American politics today. So how can we explain the fiasco that is his decision not only to swap five senior Taliban terror masters for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, but to take ownership over the decision by presenting it to the American people in a ceremony with Bergdahl’s parents at the White House Rose Garden? Clearly Obama overreached. He misread the public’s disposition.

This much is made clear by the immediate criticism his actions received from the liberal media. It wasn’t just Fox News and National Review that said Obama broke the law when he failed to notify Congress of the swap 30 days prior to its implementation. It was CNN and NBC News. MSNBC commentators criticized the swap. And CNN interviewed Bergdahl’s platoon mates who to a man accused him of desertion, with many alleging as well that he collaborated with the enemy. It was CNN that gave the names of the six American soldiers who died trying to rescue Bergdahl from the Taliban. What was it about the Bergdahl trade tipped the scales? Why is this decision different from Obama’s other foreign policy decisions? For instance, why is the public outraged now when it wasn’t outraged in the aftermath of the jihadist assault on US installations in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, in which US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were murdered? Politically, Obama emerged unscathed from failures in every area he has engaged. From Iraq to Iran to Syria to Libya to Russia and beyond, he has never experienced the sort of across the board condemnation he is now suffering. His political allies and media supporters always rallied to his side. They always explained away his failures.

So what explains the outcry? Why are people like Senator Dianne Feinstein, who have been supportive of Obama’s nuclear appeasement of Iran, up in arms over the Bergdahl swap? There are three aspects of the Bergdahl deal that distinguish it from the rest of Obama’s foreign policy blunders. First, the Bergdahl deal was conducted in an unlawful manner and the White House readily acknowledged that it knowingly broke the law by not informing Congress 30 days in advance of the swap. This brazen lawbreaking angered Obama’s loyal allies in Congress who, like Feinstein, were insulted by his behavior. Second, Obama initiated the story and made himself the sole owner of the swap. Obama didn’t have to make the Bargdahl swap a story about his foreign policy. He chose to. As commentators have argued, if Obama had simply ordered the Defense Department to issue a press release announcing the swap the story probably wouldn’t have caused more than the normal amount of controversy. And whereas Benghazi was a story about jihadists attacking, and Obama was pilloried – and defended – for his response to an act of aggression initiated by US enemies, Obama presented the Bergdahl swap as his brainchild. So it is impossible to blame anyone else for this move, or wish it away.

As the administration saw it, the public would rally around the leader over this feel-good story. Obama obviously believed that the Bergdahl trade would help him to surmount his opponents’ criticism over the Veterans’ Administration scandal and other issues. And this is where his failure to understand the disposition of the American people comes into play. The third aspect of the swap that distinguishes it from his other foreign policy failures is that by organizing the ceremony at the Rose Garden, and making it a story about himself, Obama denied his supporters the tools they have used in every other instance to explain away his failures and justify his counterproductive decisions. Obama sailed into office by presenting himself as a non-ideological pragmatist. Obama recognized that the public was tired of foreign policies based on ideology. George W. Bush lost public support for the war in Iraq, and for his foreign policy goal of bringing freedom to the Islamic world more generally, when his ideologically charged rhetoric of American exceptionalism stopped matching the situation on the ground.

A year after Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq, the sight of US military contractors being lynched in Fallujah soured the public on American exceptionalism. In Obama, they hoped that they found the antidote to Bush – a man who promised to replace ideology with hard-nosed pragmatism. In the event, Obama turned out to be even more driven by ideology than Bush was. Obama is the anti-Bush not because he matches Bush’s ideology with pragmatism. He is the anti-Bush because he matches Bush’s grand foreign policy based on American exceptionalism with his own grand foreign policy based on American moral deficiency. He made this clear most recently at his commencement address at West Point last month where he stipulated that “American influence is always stronger when we lead by example. We can’t exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everybody else… .”
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –Ed.]
 

Contents
                                  

FREE BOWE BERGDAHL, THEN TRY HIM

Charles Krauthammer

Washington Post, June 5, 2014

                                                  

What is it with Susan Rice and the Sunday morning talk shows? This time she said Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had served in Afghanistan “with honor and distinction” — the biggest whopper since she insisted the Benghazi attack was caused by a video. There is strong eyewitness evidence that Bergdahl deserted his unit and that the search for him endangered his fellow soldiers. If he had served with honor and distinction, there would be no national uproar over his ransom and some of the widely aired objections to the deal would be as muted as they are flimsy. For example:

 

1. America doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. Nonsense. Of course we do. Everyone does, while pretending not to. The Israelis, by necessity the toughest of all anti-terror fighters, in 2011 gave up 1,027 prisoners, some with blood on their hands, for one captured staff sergeant. 2. The administration did not give Congress 30-day notice as required by law. Of all the jurisdictional disputes between president and Congress, the president stands on the firmest ground as commander in chief. And commanders have the power to negotiate prisoner exchanges. Moreover, from where did this sudden assertion of congressional prerogative spring? After five years of supine acquiescence to President Obama’s multiple usurpations, Congress suddenly becomes exercised over a war power — where its claim is weakest. Congress does nothing in the face of 23 executive alterations of the president’s own Affordable Care Act. It does nothing when Obama essentially enacts by executive order the Dream Act, which Congress had refused to enact. It does nothing when the Justice Department unilaterally rewrites drug laws. And now it rises indignantly on its hind legs because it didn’t get 30 days’ notice of a prisoner swap?

 

3. The Taliban release endangers national security. Indeed it does. The five released detainees are unrepentant, militant and dangerous. They’re likely to go back into the field and resume their war against local and foreign infidels, especially us. The administration pretense that we and the Qataris will monitor them is a joke. They can start planning against us tonight. And if they decide to leave Qatar tomorrow, who’s going to stop them? The administration might have tried honesty here and said: Yes, we gave away five important combatants. But that’s what you do to redeem hostages. In such exchanges, the West always gives more than it gets for the simple reason that we value individual human life more than do the barbarians with whom we deal. No shame here, merely a lamentable reality. So why does the Bergdahl deal rankle? Because of how he became captive in the first place. That’s the real issue. He appears to have deserted, perhaps even defected. The distinction is important. If he’s a defector — joined the enemy to fight against his country — then he deserves no freeing. Indeed, he deserves killing, the way we kill other enemies in the field, the way we killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American who had openly joined al-Qaeda. A U.S. passport does not entitle a traitor to any special protection. (Caveat: If a POW is turned, Stockholm-syndrome-like, after falling captive, these condemnatory considerations don’t apply.)

 

Assume, however — and we will find out soon enough — that Bergdahl was not a defector. Simply wanted out — a deserter who walked or wandered away from his duty and his comrades for reasons as yet unknown. Do you bargain for a deserter? Two imperatives should guide the answer. Bergdahl remains a member of the U.S. military and therefore is (a) subject to military justice and (b) subject to the soldiers’ creed that we don’t leave anyone behind. What to do? Free him, then try him. Make the swap and then, if the evidence is as strong as it now seems, court-martial him for desertion…

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

                                                                     

                                                         

Contents
                            

JERUSALEM’S ‘ONE-SHEKEL’ MAYOR IS ADAMANT ABOUT ONE              

THING: THE CITY MUST NEVER BE DIVIDED

Joseph Brean

National Post, June 8, 2014

 

Nir Barkat, the software entrepreneur in his second term as mayor of Jerusalem, is known as a “one-shekel mayor” because he takes a nominal salary, pays his own expenses, and makes a point of describing his constituents as “customers.” His emphasis on fiscal prudence, in a city whose economy has struggled to retain its most skilled workers, is partly a symbolic exercise in political branding. But it also reflects his broader vision of the political life of a city that is holy to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, in which religious tension abounds, and his greatest challengers have come from the large, insular Orthodox community. In such a climate, being a secular mayor offers a chance to transcend those divisions.

 

In an interview Sunday, Mr. Barkat, 54, barely mentioned religion. He said Jerusalem is “vibrant” and “bullish,” as evidenced by the number of cranes in the air, and he is pursuing an aggressive growth strategy based on the twin pillars of cultural tourism and health sciences. There is momentum, he said, with double digit growth in the municipal budget, but “relative to our potential, it’s still tiny.”

 

“Countries are falling apart around us,” he said. “Our economy’s growing, our crime rate is down on the floor, we must be doing something right.” His firm position that Jerusalem must never be divided, however, made his city seem a microcosm of the wider Mideast conflict, following the collapse of the latest round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and a unilateral push for Palestinian statehood in which the question of Jerusalem as a capital city for both sides looms large.

 

Though it is often referred to as the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital has not been universally recognized, with many countries choosing to do as Canada and the United States have done, and locate their embassies in the financial centre of Tel Aviv, while generally avoiding firm declarations on the topic. A key pillar of the long-sought “two state solution” is a new Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Proposals to bridge this gulf have included partition of the city, or the reclassification of Jerusalem as an international city.

 

Mr. Barkat rejects both, and takes another view. “It’s a simple answer,” he said. “Jerusalem will only remain the undivided, united capital of the Jewish people. If the Palestinians would like to open an embassy, side by side to the American embassy, then it should come, and the Canadian embassy should come to Jerusalem. They are welcome to do that.” In response to the observation that countries open embassies in foreign cities, not in their own capital, he said: “Right. Look, both ideologically and practically, there’s no other solution.”

 

“Ideologically, 3,000 years ago, when the people of Israel came back to the land of Israel, the land was divided into tribes, except one city, Jerusalem. The philosophy of managing it was it was open for all, and everyone that came to the gates of the city felt a feeling of belonging. You’re talking about the city that actually created the infrastructure of modern democracy the way we know it today. People that came into the gates of the city were different, but treated equally. One governance, all equal, Jews and non-Jews alike.”

 

“On the practical side, you cannot show me one example of a city that was split that ever functioned,” he said. “So why go there in the first place? All these theoretical models never fly, especially not on a city like Jerusalem that was never divided.” Mr. Barkat is in Toronto to thank Canadian donors to Canada House, a community centre developed by the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada. A gala dinner Monday night is on the theme of “youth retention,” to combat the tendency of young and vibrant Jerusalemites to migrate to Tel Aviv. “I find that the deep commitment and relationship between the people [of Canada and Israel] mustn’t be taken for granted and I’m here to develop the relationship we have,” he said. “I’m here to thank them.”

 

He is also keen to articulate his vision for Jerusalem’s growth, in which Canada plays a key role as both a source country of tourists and of health sciences expertise. “These two areas have gotten a lot of attention, my attention, and we can demonstrate lots of progress,” he said. “The right philosophy is to focus on your competitive advantage… It’s not forcing, it’s leveraging.” Health sciences in particular is “scaling very nicely.”

 

“We see a direct correlation of the vibrancy of the city and the growth of the high tech sector, specifically in health life sciences we are now about 33% of market share in the whole country,” he said, listing pharmaceutical companies that draw on the graduates of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It is this link, between academia and industry, that he is focusing on developing, taking inspiration from the “business cluster” theories of Michael Porter, the Harvard economist and expert on competitiveness. He also cited his admiration for the ideas of Richard Florida, the University of Toronto urban theorist, about the “creative class,” which he said are complementary. “We’re sitting as market makers, if you like, developing the relationships, the contacts, making sure they all speak to each other. We supply the incentives,” he said. On tourism, his goal is 10-million tourists a year by 2020, which is more than double current levels.

 

He also offered praise for the “outspoken, honest and straightforward” approach taken by the Canadian government to questions about Israel in the global context, and offered this ideal — of putting values before politics — as a point of comparison between Canada and Russia. “You can criticize the Russian government as much as you want, but they know a few things about relationships, if you look at what they do with their allies,” he said. “Alignment and strategy is one of the most important things you have in life. You cannot blink when talking about the relationship between strategic allies. I think that Canada has demonstrated that it knows very well how to be a strategic ally to the people of Israel, to the Israeli government.”

 

CIJR Wishes all of its Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!

 

Maliki’s Iraq Disaster: David Ignatius, Washington Post, June 12, 2014 —The stunning gains this week by Iraq’s Sunni insurgents carry a crucial political message: Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, is a polarizing sectarian politician who has lost the confidence of his army and nation.

Iraq is on the Brink, But the U.S. is Not to Blame: Fred Kaplan, National Post, June 13, 2014 —The collapse of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has little to do with the withdrawal of American troops and everything to do with the political failure of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

P.O.W. Deal Gives Qatar a Victory, and a New Test: Rod Nordland & Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, June 6, 2013—The five hardened Taliban militants were quickly whisked in a fleet of cars to the shoulder of a highway on the outskirts of the capital just as they arrived.

The Other Captive Americans–Will Obama Trade For Them?: William McGurn, New York Post, June 13, 2014—When President Obama delivered the commencement at West Point, he sounded less a commander-in-chief addressing brand-new Army officers than a local college professor speaking to a chapter of the Elks.

50th Anniversary of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Reunites Tevye’s Many Daughters: Melinda Henneberger, Washington Post, June 13, 2014—When “Fiddler on the Roof” first opened on Broadway 50 years ago, “we all thought it was going to close after the Jews had seen it,’’ said Joanna Merlin, who originated the role of Tevye the milkman’s oldest daughter, Tzeitel. “We thought it was a show for Jews.”

 

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

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AFGHANISTAN: KARZAI’S TROUBLING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TALIBAN INCREASINGLY UNIGNORABLE; WILL OBAMA REPEAT THE MISTAKE HE MADE IN IRAQ?

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 



                                           

Obama Giving Up On Afghanistan?: Benny Avni, New York Post, Jan. 31, 2014 — With one word, “if,” President Obama this week raised the fear that America’s gains in Afghanistan will go down the drain, as they did in Iraq.

Hamid Karzai's Cozy History With the Taliban: Sarah Chayes, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 9, 2014 — If anyone is surprised that with each passing day Afghan President Hamid Karzai seems to veer more sharply away from the U.S. and toward the Taliban, it might be time to remember some history.

Karzai Arranged Secret Contacts With the Taliban: Azam Ahmed and Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times, Feb. 3, 2014— President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been engaged in secret contacts with the Taliban about reaching a peace agreement without the involvement of his American and Western allies, further corroding already strained relations with the United States.

An Obama Foreign Policy IQ Test: Wall Street Journal, Jan. 23, 2014— President Obama is a famously quick study, but does he learn from his own mistakes? Let's see what he does on Afghanistan.

 

On Topic Links

 

German Official: Karzai Will Sign BSA: Paul D. Shinkman, U.S. News, Feb. 13, 2014

Afghanistan Frees Suspected Taliban Prisoners: Sayed Salahuddin, Washington Post, Feb. 13, 2014

U.S. Won’t Seize Taliban Ally’s Cash: Eli Lake, Daily Beast, Feb. 7, 2014

Barack Obama May be Commander-in-Chief, But He’s a Partisan at Heart: Robert Fulford, National Post, Jan. 11, 2014

 

   

OBAMA GIVING UP ON AFGHANISTAN?                                       

Benny Avni

New York Post, Jan. 31, 2014

 

With one word, “if,” President Obama this week raised the fear that America’s gains in Afghanistan will go down the drain, as they did in Iraq. True: Afghanistan is no Iraq. After all, as Obama’s told us time and again, the latter was a terrible blunder while the former was “the good war.” That’s why, at the end of his first year as president, Obama ordered (albeit unenthusiastically, according to his defense secretary at the time, Bob Gates) an Afghan “surge” of 30,000 troops.

 

Yet their successes, hard won with blood and guts, could well be reversed now, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai refuses to sign an agreement that his own government negotiated with Washington last year. That pact would allow some US presence in Afghanistan even after most of our troops leave at the end of this year. Obama says he wants to finalize the accord, but he mostly sounds enthusiastic about getting out.

 

More than 60,000 troops have already left Afghanistan, Obama boasted Tuesday in his State of the Union Address. To thundering applause he said that soon “America’s longest war will finally be over.” Great. Then what? “If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain” for training and assisting Afghans in their pursuit of al Qaeda, Obama said.

 

Flashback: Soon after taking office the new president faced a similar situation in Iraq. He half-heartedly tried to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, with the Iraqi government to leave a residual US presence after the bulk of the force left. But Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made unreasonable demands, and Obama, whose overarching goal was to get out, gave up and ordered all the troops to leave by the end of 2011. Remember, this was not long after a surge of US troops defeated al Qaeda in Iraq, something that had seemed like mission impossible. But Sunni Iraqis were sick and tired of the foreign terrorists that usurped their main stronghold, Anbar Province. So the US force, led by Gen. David Petraeus, rallied them and managed to chase al Qaeda out. Zoom back to now: Last month an al Qaeda offshoot, this time called “the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” took over Anbar’s main cities, Falujah and Ramadi. Before Obama “ended” the Iraq war, we got good at rallying Iraqi partners to help us and themselves — and for that, not too many US troops are needed. But with none in the country, the gains of the Iraqi surge are now gone.

 

Ditto Afghanistan. “We won’t survive unless the United States maintains some presence” next year, a top Afghan diplomat told me recently. To be sure, that’s clearly not what Karzai says. He’s amassing impossible new demands (including, weirdly, a US promise to negotiate with the Taliban, his own enemies) before signing the agreement. Obama says he wants Karzai to sign on — but that little “if” on Tuesday indicates that he’s markedly less sure about it than he is about “ending” the war. And there’s more: According to the administration’s favorite paper, The New York Times, Obama recently gathered a panel of experts “to devise alternatives to mitigate the damage if a final security deal cannot be struck with the Afghan president.” He’s worried because the mainstay of his terror-fighting, drone strikes, is about to be lost. If we leave Afghanistan with no agreement, his security aides tell him, we’ll lose our drone bases in the entire region. As the Afghan diplomat made abundantly clear to me, a SOFA pact is in the Karzai government’s interest. Yet Obama, who’s made room for so much understanding of how adversaries like Iran have political needs that sometimes makes them say horrible things in public, fails to see the same in Karzai’s posturing.

 

Seven decades after World War II, we still have troops in Germany. US troops still guard the 38th parallel, though a Korean War ceasefire was reached back in 1953. Obama, however, seems to think that “ending” wars is more important than securing the gains made in them. And no matter that, of the 1,500 Americans killed in the Afghan war, 975 were slain on Obama’s watch. If we let Afghanistan fall apart now, what was the point? Let’s face it: Karzai is there because of America and he’d be in real trouble if we don’t maintain some presence in his country. More importantly, a residual force in Afghanistan is vital to America’s security. So where does this nagging “if” come from?                                                   

 

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HAMID KARZAI'S COZY HISTORY WITH THE TALIBAN    

Sarah Chayes      

Los Angeles Times, Feb. 9, 2014

 

If anyone is surprised that with each passing day Afghan President Hamid Karzai seems to veer more sharply away from the U.S. and toward the Taliban, it might be time to remember some history. Karzai himself was once asked to become a high-ranking member of the Taliban government. His every word and deed of late seems designed to appeal to the Taliban leadership and its backers in Pakistan, and to fracture the partnership between Afghanistan and the American people.

 

In one recent display, he held a news conference for Afghan villagers who claimed U.S. bombing had killed a dozen neighbors on Jan. 15. They identified mourners in a photograph purportedly taken at a funeral the next day, Jan. 16. But it turned out the photo was from four years back. In fact, it has been featured on Taliban websites, according to the New York Times. Karzai was indulging in just the type of heavy-handed propaganda we've come to expect of the Taliban itself. He has also ordered the release without trial of three dozen suspected insurgents, some of whom U.S. officers have tied to specific attacks. And, by his refusal to sign a security pact with the United States, he seems to be actively expediting the departure from Afghanistan of all foreign forces.

 

This behavior is not all born of current events. It is not some recently conceived hedging strategy pegged to the impending U.S. troop draw-down. Rather, it is entirely consistent with Karzai's own past. That past, presumably known to U.S. officials, has shaped his actions since the Taliban regime fell in 2001. I began noticing the pattern in 2003, when I lived in Kandahar, running a nonprofit founded by Karzai's older brother Qayum. Repeated, perplexing anomalies in Hamid Karzai's decision-making — his choices for filling certain positions, or the way he interacted with specific communities — were so egregious and inexplicable that I was driven to hunt for some underlying logic. I began asking family retainers, neighbors, tribal elders and former resistance commanders what Karzai's relationship with the Taliban had been when the religious militia swept into the city in 1994. The story I heard, with consistent details, took me aback.

 

In those days, Kandahar, like most of Afghanistan, was in turmoil. Resistance fighters, who had helped drive the Soviet army out of Afghanistan in 1989, had not disarmed and gone back to tending their orchards. They had turned on one another. Neighborhoods were plowed up in pitched battles, while travelers on the roads were shaken down at gunpoint for money or goods. "If you had five guys with guns, you were the mayor of your street corner," a former bus driver named Hayatullah once told me. In this context, according to several witnesses, Karzai began holding meetings with many of the proto-Taliban leaders, organizing them into a force that could gain control of Kandahar, and eventually the rest of the country. These meetings were taking place across the border in Quetta, Pakistan. And the Pakistani military intelligence agency, the ISI, which has long made use of Islamic extremism to further its policies, supported the project.

 

In October 1994, the Taliban moved on Afghanistan. "I lived next to the bus station in Quetta," a former refugee named Shafiullah told me. "Busloads and busloads of them left for the border, army officers with them." The Taliban and their Pakistani advisors fought one battle just inside the line, where they captured a weapons cache, then another in the small town of Takhta Pul, halfway to Kandahar. Within a week they owned the city. One reason the assault went so easily was the work Karzai had done ahead of time. The strongest commander in Kandahar was a thick-bearded tribal elder named Mullah Naqib. For weeks before what amounted to the Taliban invasion, he and others told me, Karzai argued with him to stand his men down so the Taliban could come in. "He told me it was the best thing for Afghanistan," Mullah Naqib recalled in 2004. "He said the Americans supported this." Without Mullah Naqib's tribesmen, no fighting force would last long against the ISI-supported Taliban.

 

Once in power, the Taliban leadership asked Karzai to be their U.N. ambassador, a position he later said he turned down. My Kandahar sources disputed that claim. And as it turned out, the U.N. never recognized Taliban rule, so the Kabul government could not send an ambassador. According to information found by journalist Roy Gutman in the U.S. National Archives, however, Washington launched a diplomatic demarche to ambassador-designate Karzai in December 1996, requesting the extradition of Osama bin Laden. None of this is to say that Karzai personally shares the fundamentalist religious ideology espoused by the Taliban. I don't think he is driven by any ideology at all. However, he has repeatedly marched with the Taliban when it has seemed expedient. As he suggested to the Sunday Telegraph's Christina Lamb on Jan. 27, Karzai wants to matter. U.S. officials and Afghan citizens alike should not assume they will be rid of his influence after next April's presidential election.                                    

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KARZAI ARRANGED SECRET CONTACTS WITH THE TALIBAN     

Azam Ahmed & Matthew Rosenberg         

New York Times, Feb. 3, 2014

                                                           

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been engaged in secret contacts with the Taliban about reaching a peace agreement without the involvement of his American and Western allies, further corroding already strained relations with the United States. The secret contacts appear to help explain a string of actions by Mr. Karzai that seem intended to antagonize his American backers, Western and Afghan officials said. In recent weeks, Mr. Karzai has continued to refuse to sign a long-term security agreement with Washington that he negotiated, insisted on releasing hardened Taliban militants from prison and distributed distorted evidence of what he called American war crimes.

 

The clandestine contacts with the Taliban have borne little fruit, according to people who have been told about them. But they have helped undermine the remaining confidence between the United States and Mr. Karzai, making the already messy endgame of the Afghan conflict even more volatile. Support for the war effort in Congress has deteriorated sharply, and American officials say they are uncertain whether they can maintain even minimal security cooperation with Mr. Karzai’s government or its successor after coming elections. Frustrated by Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the security agreement, which would clear the way for American troops to stay on for training and counterterrorism work after the end of the year, President Obama has summoned his top commanders to the White House on Tuesday to consider the future of the American mission in Afghanistan.

 

Western and Afghan officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the peace contacts, said that the outreach was apparently initiated by the Taliban in November, a time of deepening mistrust between Mr. Karzai and his allies. Mr. Karzai seemed to jump at what he believed was a chance to achieve what the Americans were unwilling or unable to do, and reach a deal to end the conflict — a belief that few in his camp shared. The peace contacts, though, have yielded no tangible agreement, nor even progressed as far as opening negotiations for one. And it is not clear whether the Taliban ever intended to seriously pursue negotiations, or were simply trying to derail the security agreement by distracting Mr. Karzai and leading him on, as many of the officials said they suspected…

 

The first peace feeler from the Taliban reached Mr. Karzai shortly before the loya jirga, Afghan officials said, and since then the insurgents and the government have exchanged a flurry of messages and contacts.

 

Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for Mr. Karzai, acknowledged the secret contacts with the Taliban and said they were continuing. “The last two months have been very positive,” Mr. Faizi said. He characterized the contacts as among the most serious the presidential palace has had since the war began. “These parties were encouraged by the president’s stance on the bilateral security agreement and his speeches afterwards,” he said.

 

But other Afghan and Western officials said that the contacts had fizzled, and that whatever the Taliban may have intended at the outset, they no longer had any intention of negotiating with the Afghan government. They said that top Afghan officials had met with influential Taliban leaders in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in recent weeks, and were told that any prospects of a peace deal were now gone. The Afghan and Western officials questioned whether the interlocutors whom Mr. Karzai was in contact with had connections to the Taliban movement’s leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, whose blessing would be needed for any peace deal the group were to strike.

 

Though there have been informal contacts between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders since the very early days of the war, the insurgents’ opaque and secretive leaders have made their intentions difficult to discern. Afghan officials have struggled in recent years to find genuine Taliban representatives, and have flitted among a variety of current and former insurgent leaders, most of whom had only tenuous connections to Mullah Omar and his inner circle, American and Afghan officials have said.

 

The only known genuine negotiating channel to those leaders was developed by American and German diplomats, who spent roughly two years trying to open peace talks in Qatar. The diplomats repeatedly found themselves incurring the wrath of Mr. Karzai, who saw the effort as an attempt to circumvent him; he tried behind the scenes to undercut it. Then, when an American diplomatic push led to the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, Mr. Karzai lashed out publicly at the United States. Afghan officials said that to them, the office looked far too much like the embassy of a government-in-exile, with its own flag and a nameplate reading “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” Within days, the Qatar initiative stalled, and Mr. Karzai was fuming at what he saw as a plot by the United States to cut its own deal with Pakistan and the Taliban without him.

 

In the wake of the failure in Qatar, Afghan officials redoubled their efforts to open their own channel to Mullah Omar, and by late autumn, Mr. Karzai apparently believed those efforts were succeeding. Some senior Afghan officials say they did not share his confidence, and their doubts were shared by American officials in Kabul and Washington.

 

Both Mr. Karzai and American officials hear the clock ticking. American forces are turning over their combat role to Afghan forces and preparing to leave Afghanistan this year, and the campaigning for the Afghan national election in April has begun. An orderly transition of power in an Afghanistan that can contain the insurgency on its own would be the culmination of everything that the United States has tried to achieve in the country.

 

“We’ve been through numerous cycles of ups and downs in our relations with President Karzai over the years,” Ambassador James B. Cunningham said during a briefing with reporters last week. “What makes it a little different this time is that he is coming to the end of his presidency, and we have some very important milestones for the international community and for Afghanistan coming up in the next couple of months.”

 

Mr. Karzai has been increasingly concerned with his legacy, officials say. When discussing the impasse with the Americans, he has repeatedly alluded to his country’s troubled history as a lesson in dealing with foreign powers. He recently likened the security agreement to the Treaty of Gandamak, a one-sided 1879 agreement that ceded frontier lands to the British administration in India and gave it tacit control over Afghan foreign policy. He has publicly assailed American policies as the behavior of a “colonial power,” though diplomats and military officials say he has been more cordial in private.

 

Mr. Karzai reacted angrily to a negative portrayal of him in a recent memoir by the former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, and he is still bitter over the 2009 presidential election, when hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots were disqualified and, as he sees it, the Americans forced him into an unnecessary runoff against his closest opponent…         

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]           

 

 

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AN OBAMA FOREIGN POLICY IQ TEST                                 

Wall Street Journal, Jan. 23, 2014              

                                                           

President Obama is a famously quick study, but does he learn from his own mistakes? Let's see what he does on Afghanistan. Mr. Obama must soon decide how many U.S. troops to keep in that country when the NATO mandate ends this year. The Journal reported Wednesday that the Pentagon has presented the White House with a plan for a 10,000 "residual" force (down from 37,500 now). The proposal came in at the higher end of Administration preferences, and Vice President Joe Biden is already opposed.

 

During a visit to Washington last week, U.S. commander in Afghanistan General Joseph Dunford offered a take-it-or-leave-it scenario: Maintain a post-2014 force of 10,000-strong that is minimally sufficient to train the Afghan military and protect U.S. diplomats, spies, aid workers and troops—or pull out entirely at year's end. The Pentagon added a political sweetener by calling for a complete withdrawal of the residual force within two years. In other words Mr. Obama could claim to have ended the Afghan war as he leaves office. The generals know their Commander in Chief. The White House said no decisions have been taken, and a spokeswoman said the U.S. first needed to conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement with the Afghans. The pact has already been negotiated and an Afghan assembly endorsed it. But erratic President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign it before elections for his replacement this spring. The Karzai bonzo act is no reason to stop the U.S. from moving ahead with its plans.

 

President Obama has been here before. In his first term he had to deal with a difficult leader about a future U.S. military presence in Iraq. He settled for a complete pullout. Unlike in Afghanistan today, at least the war in Iraq was over and the country's military was reasonably well-trained and funded. We now know the Iraqi withdrawal was one of the President's worst blunders. Without America's calming presence, Iraqi politicians reverted to bad sectarian habits. U.S. troops could have also helped stop the jihadist spillover into Iraq from Syria's civil war. Al Qaeda has returned and taken control of chunks of Anbar Province, which had been pacified at great cost in American lives.

 

The President can't undo the Iraq mistake, but he can avoid repeating it in Afghanistan. While he's at it he should throw out the Pentagon's 2017 withdrawal date. The main flaw in his own 2009 Afghan troop surge was to set a deadline to draw down American troops two years later, signalling to the Taliban and their Pakistani backers that the U.S. could be waited out. Why give Mullah Omar another date to circle on his calendar? America has kept far more than 10,000 troops in Germany, Italy, Japan and South Korea for decades. No one considers them "another Vietnam." An open-ended military presence signals a commitment that will reassure Afghans, send a message of resolve to the Taliban, and avoid a terrorist comeback that wastes 12 years of sacrifice.

                                                                      

Contents

                                                                          

German Official: Karzai Will Sign BSA: Paul D. Shinkman, U.S. News, Feb. 13, 2014—Afghan President Hamid Karzai will sign the agreement that will define U.S. forces after a combat drawdown at the end of this year, he told a German official. 

Afghanistan Frees Suspected Taliban Prisoners: Sayed Salahuddin, Washington Post, Feb. 13, 2014 —Afghanistan freed 65 suspected Taliban prisoners from jail on Thursday, ignoring repeated warnings by the U.S. government that the men pose a threat.

U.S. Won’t Seize Taliban Ally’s Cash: Eli Lake, Daily Beast, Feb. 7, 2014—In the last 17 months since the U.S. government financially blacklisted the Haqqani Network, one of the deadliest insurgent groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, not a single dollar associated with the group has been blocked or frozen, according to U.S. officials and one of the Congressman who oversees the Treasury Department’s financial war on terrorism.

Barack Obama May be Commander-in-Chief, But He’s a Partisan at Heart: Robert Fulford, National Post, Jan. 11, 2014 —A newly published account of Barack Obama’s White House confirms the worst that outsiders have imagined: The Obama staff is over-politicized, over-confident and desperate to oversee every aspect of government.

 

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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS POINTS: TURKEY UNDER ERDOGAN, AFGHANISTAN UNDER, AND AFTER, KARZAI

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

 

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Candidly Speaking: Turkey’s Erdogan – An Autocratic Islamist Bigot: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 28, 2013 — After over 50 years of Israeli-Turkish intelligence cooperation, the Turkish disclosure to Iran of the identities of Mossad operatives – apparently subsequently executed – illustrates the depths to which Israel-Turkey relations have descended under Islamist autocrat Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan Taking Turkey Back 1000 Years With ‘Reforms’: Amir Taheri, New York Post, Oct. 4, 2013— Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan this week [Sept. 30, 2013]unveiled his long-promised “reform package” to “chart the path of the nation” for the next 10 years — that is, through 2023, 100 years after the founding of Turkey as a republic. Which is ironic, since Erdogan seems bent on abolishing that republic in all but name.

Is Iraq’s Present Afghanistan’s Future?: Max Boot, Commentary,  Oct. 28, 2013— Back in 2011, President Obama tried briefly and not very hard to attain a Status of Forces Agreement that would have allowed U.S. forces to remain in Iraq past 2011. That effort failed, as we know, with disastrous consequences–the civil war that was all but extinguished by the surge in 2007-2008 has reignited with a vengeance as al-Qaeda in Iraq has come roaring back from the grave.

Why U.S. Troops Want to Stay in Afghanistan: Michael M. Phillips, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 25, 2013— U.S. and Afghan politicians are in the middle of a heated debate over whether a small American and NATO force will remain in Afghanistan at the end of next year.

 

On Topic Links

 

Thorn in the Side: Why is Turkey Sheltering a Dangerous Hamas Operative?: Jonathan Schanzer, Foreign Policy, Sep. 17, 2013

Turkey Goes From Honest Broker to Iranian Ally: Mahir Zeynalov, Al-Arabiya, Oct. 27, 2013

The Taliban’s New Tactic to Derail Afghanistan’s Elections: Najib Sharifi, Foreign Policy, Oct. 29, 2013

Afghan Elections: the Warlords are Back: Ron Moreau & Sami Yousafzai, The Daily Beast, Oct. 16, 2013

 

CANDIDLY SPEAKING: TURKEY’S ERDOGAN-

AN AUTOCRATIC ISLAMIST BIGOT

Isi Leibler
Jerusalem Post, Oct. 28, 2013

 

After over 50 years of Israeli-Turkish intelligence cooperation, the Turkish disclosure to Iran of the identities of Mossad operatives – apparently subsequently executed – illustrates the depths to which Israel-Turkey relations have descended under Islamist autocrat Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan seeks to conceal his true intentions and convey the illusion that he is himself a role model for an enlightened Islam which blends with democracy.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Erdogan is a fanatical Islamist and a vile bigot who lavishes praise on the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah and whose behavior is more reminiscent of an Ottoman sultan than a democratically elected leader. Erdogan has employed Islamist demagoguery to win three elections and has exploited his power and position to intimidate the media and destroy the opposition. He has purged the army of its secular officers through primitive show trials and brutally repressed freedom of speech. Today, there are more imprisoned journalists in Turkey than in Communist China and perhaps any other country in the world…

 

Since his demagogic outburst against President Shimon Peres in Davos live on TV in January 2009, followed by his dramatic storming out of the meeting, Erdogan’s attitude toward Israel has dramatically deteriorated. He shamelessly allies himself with the genocidal Hamas and refers to Israel as a “terrorist state” which “massacres children” and “knows well how to kill.” Only a few weeks ago, Erdogan hosted Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Turkey for the third time in 12 months. Clearly, he reached the conclusion that as a major global Israel-basher he reaps dividends among the Arab masses and furthers his dream of becoming head of a new Ottoman Sunni empire.

 

Erdogan’s anti-Zionism is a natural extension of his anti-Semitism. As far back as 1974, he directed and played a leading role in a play entitled Maskomya, based on the evil global influence of Jews, Communists and Freemasons. As mayor of Istanbul in 1998, he stated, “Today the image of the Jews is no different from that of the Nazis.” In 2006 he endorsed the popular virulent anti-Semitic film Valley of the Wolves about an American Jew who trades in body parts. He blamed the Gezi Park environmental protest on the “interest rate lobby,” the “dual loyalists” and the “rootless cosmopolitans,” clear references to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. His deputy explicitly attributed the blame for the riots on the Jewish Diaspora. Erdogan has made outrageous statements in international circles. At a UN conference in Vienna in February, Erdogan stated, “Just like Zionism and fascism, Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity.”

 

Only a few weeks ago he blamed Israel for the upheavals in Egypt, stating, “What is said about Egypt? That democracy is not about the box. Who was behind this? Israel is. We have evidence in our hands.” When subsequently pressed to substantiate this xenophobic outburst, all he could do was to quote the French Jewish philosopher Bernard Henri Levy (not an Israeli) who had made negative references to the Muslim Brotherhood in 2001. One of Erdogan’s favorite remarks is “There is no Islamic terror.” He also publicly undermines American efforts to boycott Iran and continues to provide Tehran with reliable trade outlets. Nonetheless, the US still considers Turkey a principal ally with which it shares “bonds of trust.”…

 

The surreal nature of Turkish influence is best exemplified by the ongoing story of the Mavi Marmara flotillas that sought to break Israel’s weapons embargo on Gaza in May 2010. Following the international incident, Erdogan demanded that Israel issue an unequivocal apology for the death of nine Turkish protesters associated with al-Qaida who were aboard the boat. When Israel acted in accordance with the ruling of an independent UN inquiry that found that it need not apologize for the loss of lives, Erdogan recalled his ambassador, orchestrated show trials against IDF personnel, and sought to exclude Israel from global organizations, including NATO – this, from a leader who has never acknowledged his country’s massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in World War I.

 

Following his visit to Israel in March 2013, President Barack Obama allegedly pressed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to apologize and pay compensation to the Turkish terrorists’ families. Despite bitter condemnation in Israel, Netanyahu complied in order to restore relations with Turkey so that Israel and Turkey could cooperate on issues emerging in Syria. Erdogan agreed to cooperate with Israel at all levels. But, unsurprisingly, the Turkish prime minister has failed to adhere to his commitment. Immediately after Israeli issued its apology, Erdogan announced his intention to visit Gaza, and demanded Israel lift its maritime blockade against Hamas. Six months later, Erdogan still has not restored diplomatic relations nor suspended the show trials of senior Israeli officials. The Greek ambassador to Israel informed The Jerusalem Post that Turkey was still continuing to block Israel’s participation in NATO . This month, President Abdullah Gul stated that Israel had extended its apology “too late.”

 

In light of this, it is disappointing that Obama continues to praise Erdogan as a “moderate Islamist” who “has shown great leadership,” ignoring the fact that he has effectively violated all the undertakings brokered by him in relation to Israel and continues to actively undermine efforts to impose sanctions on Iran . Not to mention that only a few weeks ago Erdogan announced a “strategic partnership” with China. The reality is that while the inveterate anti-Semite Erdogan has his way, he will veto any efforts to improve relationships with Israel, despite the major strategic and economic benefits that would accrue to both countries. Thus, even if the US clings to the fantasy that Turkey represents a moderate, democratically influenced form of Islam, we should not delude ourselves. Erdogan is running an anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli regime that supports Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. As long as he remains in power, Israel-Turkish relations will remain cold at best.

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ERDOGAN TAKING TURKEY BACK 1000 YEARS WITH ‘REFORMS’

Amir Taheri

New York Post, Oct. 4, 2013

 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan this week [Sept. 30, 2013] unveiled his long-promised “reform package” to “chart the path of the nation” for the next 10 years — that is, through 2023, 100 years after the founding of Turkey as a republic. Which is ironic, since Erdogan seems bent on abolishing that republic in all but name. His plan to amend the Constitution to replace the long-tested parliamentary system with a presidential one (with himself as president and commander-in-chief) is only part of it. He’d also undo the key achievement of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

 

In the 1920s, Ataturk created the Turkish nation from the debris of the Ottoman Empire. Ataturk and the military and intellectual elite around him replaced Islam as the chief bond between the land’s many ethnic communities with Turkish nationhood. Over the past 90 years, this project has not had 100 percent success. Nevertheless, it managed to create a strong sense of bonding among a majority of the citizens.

 

Now Erdogan is out to undermine that in two ways. First, his package encourages many Turks to redefine their identities as minorities. For example, he has discovered the Lezgin minority and promises to allow its members to school their children in “their own language.” Almost 20 percent of Turkey’s population may be of Lezgin and other Caucasian origin (among them the Charkess, Karachai, Udmurt and Dagestanis). Yet almost all of those have long forgotten their origins and melted in the larger pot of Turkish identity. What is the point of encouraging the re-emergence of minority identities?

 

Meanwhile, Erdogan is offering little to minorities that have managed to retain their identity over the past nine decades. Chief among these are the Kurds, 15 percent of the population. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, the AKP, partly owes its successive election victories to the Kurds. Without the Kurdish vote, AKP could not have collected more than 40 percent of the votes. Yet his package offers Kurds very little. They would be allowed to use their language, but not to write it in their own alphabet. Nor could they use “w” and other letters that don’t exist in the Turkish-Latin alphabet but are frequent in Kurdish. Kurdish leaders tell me that the package grants no more than 5 percent of what they had demanded in long negotiations with Erdogan. Another real minority that gets little are the Alevites, who practice a moderate version of Islam and have acted as a chief support for secularism in Turkey. While Erdogan uses the resources of the state to support Sunni Islam, Alevites can’t even get building permits to construct their own places of prayer. Armenians, too, get nothing — not even a promise of an impartial inquest into allegations of genocide against them in 1915.

 

The second leg of Erdogan’s strategy is to re-energize his Islamist base. Hundreds of associations controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood are to take over state-owned mosques, religious sites and endowment properties — thus offering AKP a vast power base across Turkey. Indirectly, Erdogan is telling Turks to stop seeing themselves as citizens of a secular state and, instead, as minorities living in a state dominated by the Sunni Muslim majority. Call it neo-Ottomanism. Erdogan is using “Manzikert” as a slogan to sell his package. Yet this refers to a battle between the Seljuk Sultan Alp Arsalan and the Byzantine Emperor Romanos in 1071, the first great victory of Muslim armies against Christians in Asia Minor. It happened centuries before the Ottoman Turks arrived in the region. Invoking the battle as a victory of Islam against “the Infidel,” Erdogan supposedly has an eye on the battle’s thousandth anniversary. Does he mean to take Turkey back 1,000 years? The Ottoman system divided the sultan’s subjects according to religious faith into dozens of “mullahs,” each allowed to enforce its own laws in personal and private domains while paying a poll tax. It’s doubtful most Turks share Erdogan’s dream of recreating a mythical Islamic state with himself as caliph, albeit under the title of president. His effort to redefine Turkey’s republican and secular identity may wind up revitalizing it.

Contents

 

IS IRAQ’S PRESENT AFGHANISTAN’S FUTURE?

Max Boot

Commentary, Oct. 29, 2013

 

Back in 2011, President Obama tried briefly and not very hard to attain a Status of Forces Agreement that would have allowed U.S. forces to remain in Iraq past 2011. That effort failed, as we know, with disastrous consequences–the civil war that was all but extinguished by the surge in 2007-2008 has reignited with a vengeance as al-Qaeda in Iraq has come roaring back from the grave. As the Washington Post notes, recent violence in Iraq “has virtually erased the security gains made in the past five years. More than 5,300 Iraqis have been killed this year.”

 

There are many reasons why the U.S.-Iraq accord failed to be completed. One of the less noticed but more important was Obama’s unwillingness to send more than a few thousand U.S. troops to Iraq in spite of U.S. commanders’ recommendations that he send at least 15,000 to 20,000. Many Iraqi politicians figured that a commitment of fewer than 5,000 U.S. troops would be mainly symbolic and ineffectual and would not be worth the resulting political controversy.

 

Is history repeating itself in Afghanistan? It’s too soon to say, but there is cause for concern when one reads articles like this one in the New York Times today reporting that “NATO has endorsed an enduring presence of 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with two-thirds expected to be American.” That translates into 5,300 to 8,000 U.S. troops, considerably below the 13,600 that Gen. Jim Mattis, former commander of Central Command, estimated to be necessary–and that itself was a low-ball estimate in the judgment of many military experts.

 

At some point there is a real risk of Afghan politicos, like their Iraqi counterparts, deciding there is no point in having their sovereignty violated and being exposed to anti-American criticism in return for a token force that can accomplish little. If that were to happen, the future of Afghanistan isn’t hard to imagine. Just look at Iraq today–only Afghanistan will probably be worse off because it faces a more malignant insurgency with more entrenched cross-border bases and its government and security forces are weaker than their Iraqi counterparts.

 

Contents

 

WHY U.S. TROOPS WANT TO STAY IN AFGHANISTAN

Michael M. Phillips

Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2013

 

U.S. and Afghan politicians are in the middle of a heated debate over whether a small American and NATO force will remain in Afghanistan at the end of next year. But what’s a political and strategic question at the negotiating table is an emotional question at bases around Afghanistan, where soldiers watch the discussions with one eye on their sacrifices over the past 12 years and the other on the American withdrawal from Vietnam four decades ago. In short, they don’t want to go home without the win.

 

After repeated combat tours, an untold number of divorces and nearly 2,300 U.S. dead, American servicemen want their losses in Afghanistan to have been worth it. For many of them, that means keeping a residual force here to help the Afghans fend off a resurgent Taliban. The sense is especially sharp among elite special-operations troops. They were the first U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan in 2001, fighting alongside Northern Alliance rebels to oust the Taliban regime that had sheltered Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. And they are the ones likely to form the backbone of any force the U.S. would leave in place to buttress the Afghan military and government after the bulk of coalition forces withdraw by the end of next year. “There’s some ownership of this,” says Maj. Gen. Austin Scott Miller, who has spent three years in Afghanistan since 2001 and now commands allied special-operating forces there. “There are people who have been here since the beginning.”

 

The U.S. military would like to keep close to 9,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014, with a smaller contribution from allied nations, according to a senior Obama administration official. That force would likely be heavy with Army Green Berets, Marine Corps special-operations troops, Navy SEALs and other specialized units, which work closely with select Afghan forces. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai made progress this month in hammering out an accord that would allow a continued American and NATO military presence beyond 2014. But the deal is still hung up on several points, including the touchy question of whether U.S. troops would be subject to Afghan law. Mr. Karzai has said that he won’t approve immunity for foreign troops unless it is approved by a gathering of traditional Afghan leaders, or Loya Jirga. A similar immunity dispute sank U.S. efforts to leave a rump force in Iraq in 2011. “We’d like to stay in the long term, and our [Afghan National Security Force] partners have indicated they want us to stay,” says Gen. Miller. “The relationships between us run deep after 12 years.”

 

The ignominious U.S. exit from Vietnam—helicopters lifting the last Americans and desperate Vietnamese from a Saigon rooftop—isn’t far from the minds of U.S. troops as American participation winds down in Afghanistan. A more personal fear, perhaps, is becoming like the Vietnam veterans of popular imagination, bitter over losing their friends and their youth in a failed effort to prevent a Communist takeover of the country’s south…

 

It isn’t that U.S. commanders express pessimism about the outcome in Afghanistan; Gen. Miller and Col. Roberson say that Afghan troops are better able than ever before to take on the insurgents. Nationwide, they often operate virtually independent of coalition support, although Afghan military casualties are soaring as a result. Still, there’s pervasive sense among elite U.S. troops that the end of next year is too early to go home. In Helmand’s Kajaki district, where the U.S. built a hydroelectric dam 60 years ago, one Marine staff sergeant reflected recently on his third Afghan tour in four years. He missed his daughter’s birth two months ago; he was on emergency leave, rushing home from the battlefield, when his wife went into labor. He has lost two very close friends in Afghanistan. He escorted one friend’s body home. Despite the heavy price—or perhaps because of it—he says: “I think we need to have the conviction as special-operating forces to finish this fight…”

 

In the headquarters building at a major base, Lt. Col. Joe McGraw, commander of 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, often finds himself walking a hallway lined with the photos of young Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen killed in Helmand province over the past 12 years. “You walk down that hallway and realize it’s not dozens—it’s hundreds and hundreds,” he says. The price paid in “blood and flesh” makes it hard for Lt. Col. McGraw to swallow the idea of leaving too early. “Nobody comes over here looking to lose,” he says.

Still, the elite troops recognize that the very concept of victory is elusive in Afghanistan, where religion, politics, corruption and crime mix together to muddy the definition of friend and foe. No matter how long U.S. forces stay, they say, there is unlikely to be a final battle or surrender. One Marine major—who has missed half of the Christmases in his son’s seven years—says, “For something like this, winning and losing is too black and white.” Afghanistan, he predicts, will long have pockets of violence. But, he says, however the next few years play out, the war has already achieved its major goal. “I don’t think there’s an al Qaeda-type element who will ever come back into power and threaten my country and my family,” says the major. “That’s victory to me.”

 

                                                                                                Contents

 

Thorn in the Side: Why is Turkey Sheltering a Dangerous Hamas Operative?: Jonathan Schanzer, Foreign Policy, Sep. 17, 2013—Turkey is a member of NATO and an aspiring member of the European Union — but it has one alliance that sets it apart from its Western counterparts: It's an important base of operations for at least one high-ranking member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Turkey Goes From Honest Broker to Iranian Ally: Mahir Zeynalov, Al-Arabiya, Oct. 27, 2013—A few years ago, Turkey was the only country that could talk to everyone in a Middle East where distrust among nations is a prevailing mentality. Mishandling crises in most states hit by the mass uprising, Ankara was left alone. Officials in Ankara preferred to describe its international standing “precious loneliness.”

The Taliban’s New Tactic to Derail Afghanistan’s Elections: Najib Sharifi, Foreign Policy, Oct. 29, 2013— The assassination of Amanullah Aman, the Chief Election Officer of Afghanistan's Kunduz province, in September should be taken seriously, as it could mark the beginning of a devastating terror campaign targeting election workers that could potentially paralyze next April's presidential elections.

Afghan Elections: the Warlords are Back: Ron Moreau & Sami Yousafzai, The Daily Beast, Oct. 16, 2013— As the country gears up for presidential elections, several prominent warlords have already thrown their hat in the ring—including Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the onetime mentor of Osama bin Laden and one of the country’s most powerful anti-Taliban voices. Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai report on the rogue’s gallery of candidates.

 

 

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OBAMA, COURTING AFGHANISTAN DISASTER, TALKS WITH TALIBAN, SET TO RELEASE GUANTANAMO THUGS

TALIBAN SEE CONTROL OF AFGHANISTAN AS ‘INEVITABLE’
Peter Goodspeed

National Post, Feb 1, 2012

…Leaked U.S. and NATO reports suggest officials fear they are locked in a stalemate [in Afghanistan] that could become outright defeat the moment foreign troops leave.

A secret NATO report, based on interrogation of 4,000 Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners, says Afghan insurgents boast of being heavily backed and supported by Pakistan, and are confident they can recapture Afghanistan once NATO pulls out in 2014. In contrast to previous NATO military assessments suggesting the Taliban have been damaged and demoralized by a counter-insurgency campaign, it concludes their strength and morale remain largely intact.

According to excerpts published by the British Broadcasting Corp. and The Times of London newspaper, “Taliban commanders, along with rank and file members, increasingly believe their control of Afghanistan is inevitable. Though the Taliban suffered severely in 2011, its strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remain intact,” the study says. “In the last year, there has been unprecedented interest, even from [Afghan government] members, in joining the insurgent cause. Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over [the Afghan government], usually as a result of government.”

The NATO study claims Pakistan knows the location of senior Taliban leaders and says “senior Taliban representatives, such as Nasiruddin Haqqani [deputy head of the Haqqani Network], maintain residences in the immediate vicinity of [Pakistan’s intelligence agency] ISI headquarters in Islamabad.” “Pakistan knows everything. They control everything. I can’t [expletive] on a tree in Kunar without them watching,” said a senior al-Qaeda detainee.…

James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, [recently] released his department’s annual worldwide threat assessment… [It] warns [that] the Taliban “remains resilient and capable of challenging U.S. and international goals and Taliban leaders continue to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan, which enables them to provide strategic direction to the insurgency and not fear for their safety.”

The Los Angeles Times newspaper also reported [this month that] a new 100-page national intelligence estimate on Afghanistan, by experts from the Central Intelligence and 15 other intelligence agencies, painted an even bleaker picture. It said the war in Afghanistan was “mired in stalemate” and “security gains from an increase in American troops have been undercut by pervasive corruption, incompetent governance and Taliban fighters operating from neighbouring Pakistan.” The newspaper said the intelligence estimate was a consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community.…

COURTING DISASTER IN AFGHANISTAN
Frederick W. Kagan & Kimberly Kagan

Weekly Standard, February 1, 2012

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced a new timeline for American combat operations in Afghanistan—or did he? He said, “Hopefully, by mid- to the latter part of 2013, we’ll be able to make, you know, to make a transition from a combat role to a training advice, and assist role…” Pressed once, he added, “The hope was, that hopefully, we could reach a point in the latter part of 2013 that we could make the same kind of transition we made in Iraq, from a combat role to a train-and-assist role.” Pressed again about whether this timeline was a new departure, he answered, “No, not really,” repeating that such a transition was envisioned at the 2010 Lisbon Conference and that “we always looked at, you know, what exactly…are the pieces we would have to have in place in order to be able to make that transition.” Let us hope, hopefully, that this comment was a malapropism rather than the leaking of a new strategy, because, if it is a new strategy, it’s a bad one.

Everything Secretary Panetta said about the transition approach envisioned at Lisbon is true—that process, excessively binding and bureaucratic in our opinion, does foresee the gradual and conditions-based transition of the task of securing all of Afghanistan to the Afghan security forces. At some point—not specified at Lisbon or in any public statement or document before this one—the mission of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would change from defeating the insurgency alongside the Afghans to assisting the Afghans in securing their own state. Could that point come in late 2013? Perhaps. But there is no way to be sure now. Announcing it as a fixed timeline, therefore, would be not only foolish but irresponsible.

Secretary Panetta said one thing about Afghanistan that is certainly not true: “Consolidating those gains is going to be what we have to do in 2012, ensuring that we continue the transitions, ensuring that we continue to improve the Afghan army during this year.” If those goals are the limits of our campaign in Afghanistan for 2012, then our mission there will fail. The reason is simple: You cannot consolidate gains that have not yet been made.

Progress in southern Afghanistan (Helmand, Kandahar, Oruzgan, and Day Kundi provinces in particular) is incontestable, as Secretary Panetta noted. Mullah Omar’s commanders have been driven out of their most critical safe havens. Mullah Omar himself, of course, has not been in Afghanistan since 2001. Local populations are turning against his commanders, forming into Afghan Local Police units or simply working informally with Afghan and Coalition forces to prevent the Taliban from coming back. But progress in the areas south of Kabul (Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, Paktia, Paktika, and Khost provinces) remains inadequate. The Haqqani Network that operates there has been damaged but not defeated. It retains important safe havens within an hour’s drive of Afghanistan’s capital.… Our job in Afghanistan is not done while those Haqqani safe havens persist inside Afghanistan’s borders.

The Haqqani Network is the most dangerous enemy facing the U.S. in Afghanistan today. It remains closely tied with al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LeT), and elements of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Mullah Omar has been drawn reluctantly into tolerating the use of suicide bombers and attacks on civilians, but Sirajuddin Haqqani (who replaced his father Jalaluddin at the head of the network a few years ago) has embraced and expanded such attacks in spite of Mullah Omar’s qualms. He has deepened his organization’s ties to the most militant terrorist groups in Pakistan whose aims are regional and global and whose tactics are abhorrent even by the standards of Afghan insurgents. He organizes and orients those groups. As long as the Haqqani Network and its affiliates control significant safe havens in Afghanistan, the danger remains high that they will shelter al Qaeda, LeT, IMU, TTP, and other terrorist groups eager to kill Americans. If the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan while the Haqqanis still have such safe havens, the mission President Obama set himself of disrupting and defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and creating conditions that will prevent it from returning will have failed.

This task cannot be left to the Afghan security forces, moreover. Apart from the fact that Secretary Panetta used the same media availability to suggest that the Obama administration is looking to reduce the size of the Afghan security forces to which it proposes to transition this fight, the Afghans will not be up to accomplishing this task. Clearing a heavily defended, long-established insurgent safe haven without simply annihilating the population is a challenge that only the American military and one or two of its allies can meet.… It requires precise intelligence, accurate firepower, close air support, skilled infantrymen, sophisticated planning, perfect communications, and many other things that the Afghans will probably never have. Leaving it to the Afghans to clear safe havens south of Kabul is a recipe for failure. Implying, as Secretary Panetta did, that clearing those safe havens would be a matter of consolidating gains, a mopping-up operation, as it were, is simply wrong.

The reality is that there are two hard fighting seasons’ worth of combat in Eastern Afghanistan before we can transition the problem to the Afghans and focus on assisting them. And it will take all of the 68,000 U.S. troops that will remain at the end of this year to do it. The fight is worth it—eliminating the safe havens of groups that would give sanctuary to al Qaeda was what we came to Afghanistan to do in the first place. And it is achievable, even if the constraints President Obama has placed on our troops by imposing arbitrary and unjustifiable force caps on them make it much more difficult, dangerous, and protracted than it need be.

Secretary Panetta also said that no decision has been made about force levels in 2013. We hope that that is true. There is no occasion to make any such decisions until the end of this fighting season or early in 2013 itself. When we have made the gains we can and must make, and when we have consolidated them to ensure that our efforts were not wasted and our security is not endangered—only then should we talk about drawing down more troops or changing their mission. To do otherwise is to court disaster.

TALKING TO THE TALIBAN
Con Coughlin

Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2012

The announcement by the Taliban that it is setting up an office in the Gulf state of Qatar to facilitate peace talks with Washington over the future of Afghanistan has inevitably raised hopes that a negotiated settlement of the decade-long conflict is possible.

Getting the Taliban to the negotiating table was, after all, one of President Obama’s key objectives when he set out his comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan in his speech at West Point in December 2009. Mr. Obama aimed to intensify the pressure on the Taliban by deploying an extra 30,000 U.S. troops. By undertaking extensive “kill or capture” missions against key Taliban leaders, U.S. military commanders believed they would force the Taliban to negotiate.

But even though thousands of Taliban fighters have been removed from the Afghan battlefield, serious doubts remain about whether the Taliban’s leadership, which is mainly based in Pakistan, is really serious about engaging in meaningful peace talks with the U.S. and Afghan governments.

The Taliban claim that the new Qatar office is being established for precisely this purpose. During the latter part of 2011, however, they engaged in a campaign of violence whose sole purpose was to destroy any prospect of a negotiated peace deal with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. By far their most effective action to date has been the murder last September of Burhanuddin Rabbani, Mr. Karzai’s chief peace negotiator. He was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber who concealed an explosive device in his turban.

The assassination of Mr. Rabbani, the head of the Afghan government’s High Peace Council, effectively ended the tentative talks that had been taking place between the Taliban and Mr. Karzai. When the U.S. hosted a peace conference in Bonn to address some of the Taliban’s longstanding grievances, the Taliban leadership simply boycotted the event.

The other factor that stands in the way of an effective peace dialogue is the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan’s turbulent political landscape. The official position of Pakistan’s government is that it supports the U.S.-led NATO effort to defeat the Taliban and restore political stability to Afghanistan, but many senior Pakistani security officials continue to support radical elements of the Taliban.…

Shortly before his retirement as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last fall, Adm. Mike Mullen vented the frustration of many senior Pentagon officials by openly accusing the ISI of supporting the Haqqani network.… Like the Taliban, Pakistan also boycotted December’s Bonn conference, and many Western officials believe it would be virtually impossible to negotiate a lasting peace settlement for Afghanistan without Pakistan’s involvement.

One reason the Taliban and Pakistan are unwilling to invest much political capital in peace talks is that, so far as they are concerned, Mr. Obama has already run up the white flag in Afghanistan by ordering the withdrawal of American forces to begin this summer—in good time for November’s presidential election contest.…

Consequently, Taliban leaders know that, rather than being forced to negotiate, all they have to do is wait for the Americans to leave before they make their next move.… [Accordingly, if] the decision to open the Qatar office is nothing more than a stalling tactic on the part of the Taliban, then Mr. Obama will have no one but himself to blame for failing to achieve a peace settlement in Afghanistan.…

THE TALIBAN AND THE PLO
Shoshana Bryen

American Thinker, January 10, 2012

In 2006, a 1973 State Department memo regarding the murder of two American and one Belgian diplomat in Sudan was declassified. It acknowledged, “The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and head of Fatah.” That was generally believed to be the case, but still it was a shock to see that the United States government had known for 33 years that Arafat, murderer of Israelis and Jews, was also the murderer of Cleo Noel, George Curtis Moore, and Guy Eid, Western diplomats in service.…

The world could have been spared a lot of trouble if the U.S. government had told what it knew in 1973.… Instead, the State Department hid its contemporaneous knowledge of Arafat’s crime against American diplomats in hopes of enticing/bribing him to make peace with Israel.

Arafat repaid the favor with airplane hijackings, the beating to death of U.S. Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem, the Coastal Road Massacre that killed an American photographer, the 1974 massacre of 23 Israeli high school students, and other similar atrocities. He ran training camps in Lebanon for terrorist[s].… He led two bloody uprisings that targeted Israeli civilians, the second of which killed more than 1,000 people. He orchestrated rabid anti-Semitism and the veneration of death in Palestinian society.

With the notable exception of the George W. Bush administration (the president refused ever to meet with Arafat), U.S. governments have pressed Israel for concessions, first to Arafat and then to his successors…after which the Palestinians would be expected to offer recognition of the legitimacy and permanence of the State of Israel. The United States apparently didn’t/doesn’t understand that the Palestinian leadership really believes in ultimate victory—[the destruction of Israel]—which makes concessions to Israel irrelevant at best and traitorous at worst.…

Today, [the U.S.] is engaged in similar foolishness with the Taliban. Ignoring what it is, what it says, what it did, and what it does, the United States government has permitted the host of al-Qaeda and the nemesis of the elected Afghan government to open a “diplomatic office” in Doha.…

At West Point in 2010, [U.S.] President Obama was explicit about the Taliban and American interests: “The Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to take control over swaths of Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating acts of terrorism.… We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum.… [However], we will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens.”

Has the Taliban renounced al-Qaeda or violence, or pledged to respect human rights?… Has it accepted the Afghan constitution?… No. Has the U.S. decided that those things are now unimportant? Not exactly.… In 2011, Secretary of State Clinton announced that the president’s conditions could be met at the end of negotiations, not before. So the secret talks were started with concession #1.…

Among the Taliban representatives in Doha are reported to be the personal secretary to Mullah Omar and the “defense minister” of the Taliban government. How can the administration believe that these people will concede anything to the United States, to Karzai, to the Afghan people, or to modernity? More worrisome, what further concessions is the U.S. prepared to offer in the name of the Afghan “peace process” when things don’t move as the administration plans?…

DON’T LET THESE TALIBAN LEADERS LOOSE
Marc A. Thiessen

Washington Post, January 9, 2012

President Obama is reportedly considering releasing several senior Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay as an enticement to get the Taliban to the peace table. If he does so, he will do tremendous harm to American national security—and to his prospects for reelection this fall.

To understand why, consider the individuals White House is considering setting free. Last year WikiLeaks released a trove of documents it dubbed the “Gitmo Files” with assessments of hundreds of Guantanamo detainees—including the five Taliban leaders reportedly under consideration for release. Here is the U.S. military’s assessment of them:

Mullah Mohammed Fazl, deputy defense minister. Fazl is “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes while serving as a Taliban Army Chief of Staff and…was implicated in the murder of thousands of Shiites in northern Afghanistan during the Taliban reign.” He has “operational associations with significant al-Qaida and other extremist personnel,” was “involved in Taliban narcotics trafficking,” and is so senior in the Taliban hierarchy that he once threatened the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar. Military officials assess that Fazl wields “considerable influence throughout the northern region of Afghanistan and his influence continued even after his capture” adding, “If released, [Fazl] would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with anti-Coalition militias (ACM) participating in hostilities against US and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”

Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy minister of intelligence. Wasiq “was central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups to fight alongside the Taliban against US and Coalition forces.” He “utilized his office to support al-Qaida and to assist Taliban personnel elude capture.… [He also] arranged for al-Qaida personnel to train Taliban intelligence staff in intelligence methods” and “assigned al-Qaida members to the Taliban Ministry of Intelligence.” If released “he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”

Mullah Norullah Noori, governor-general of Afghanistan’s northern zone. Noori “is considered one of the most significant former Taliban officials detained at JTF-GTMO” who “led troops against US and Coalition forces” and “was directly subordinate to Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar.” He “is wanted by the UN for possible war crimes.…”

Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, Herat governor and acting interior minister. Khairkhwa is “directly associated to Usama Bin Laden (UBL) and Taliban Supreme Commander Mullah Muhammad Omar” and was “trusted and respected by both.” After 9/11 he “represented the Taliban during meetings with Iranian officials”…and “attended a meeting at the direction of UBL, reportedly accompanied by members of HAMAS.” He is “one of the premier opium drug lords in Western Afghanistan…” and likely “associated with a militant training camp in Herat operated by deceased al-Qaida commander (in Iraq) Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.”

Mohammad Nabi, multiple leadership roles. Nabi is “a senior Taliban official” who was “a member of a joint al-Qaida/Taliban ACM cell in Khowst and was involved in attacks against US and Coalition forces.” He “held weekly meetings” with “three al-Qaida affiliated individuals” to discuss anti-coalition plans, “maintained weapons caches,” and “facilitated two al-Qaida operatives smuggling an unknown number of missiles…which intelligence officials believe contributed to the deaths of two Americans.…