Trump's Afghan Strategy: Will Pakistan Yield to US Pressure?

Announcing the new US strategy on Afghanistan this week, President Donald Trump singled out "valued partner" Pakistan for increased American pressure to act against "agents of chaos" such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network who attack American service members and officials. Trump said this "will have to change, and that will change immediately." He also sought India's help in Afghanistan while ignoring the increased Iranian and Russian involvement in helping the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan's Response to US Pressure:

Will Trump's pressure on Pakistan work? Will Pakistanis do the bidding of the new US administration? To answer this question, let us look at the following two quotes:

1.  "The Pakistani establishment, as we saw in 1998 with the nuclear test, does not view assistance -- even sizable assistance to their own entities -- as a trade-off for national security vis-a-vis India". US Ambassador Anne Patterson, September 23, 2009

2. “Pakistan knows it can outstare the West."  Pakistani Nuclear Scientist Pervez Hoodbhoy, May 15, 2011

Pakistan is much less reliant on US assistance now than it was when the above statements were made. If anything, the Trump administration has less leverage with Pakistan today than its predecessors did back in 1990s and 2000s.

Iran and Russia in Afghanistan:

While Trump is singling out Pakistan as the main culprit for US failures in Afghanistan, the ground reality has substantially changed with the emergence of ISIS and increased Iranian and Russian involvement in helping the Afghan Taliban. Both see the Afghan Taliban as allies in fighting their common enemy ISIS in Afghanistan.

Russia's Ambassador at large for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov has described the Afghan Taliban as a “predominantly a national military-political movement”. “It is local, Afghanistan-based. They believe that they should have, from their perspective, fair share in the government of Afghanistan…They should talk and deal in their local context”. But Daesh (ISIS) “as an international organization is really dangerous”. “If you recall, young Taliban under the influence of Al-Qaeda in 1994, their rhetoric was very similar to today’s Daesh rhetoric”.

Mr. Kabulov's comments reveal the following conclusions that underpin the Russian policy shift in South Asia region:

1. Moscow now believes that the presence of ISIS (Daesh) in Afghanistan is a much bigger threat to  Russia's soft underbelly in the former Soviet republics of  Central Asia.

2.  The Afghan Taliban are an effective force to check the growth and spread of ISIS in Central and South Asian nations.

3.  Pakistan's cooperation is critical to help defeat ISIS in the region.

India's Proxy War Against Pakistan:

President Trump's Afghan strategy of partnering with India will further alienate Pakistan and make its cooperation with US less likely. Why?  Because Pakistan believes that India is using Afghanistan to attack Pakistan, an allegation confirmed as fact by former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who said in 2011 that "India has always used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan. India has over the years been financing problems in Pakistan".

Pakistan's fears about India waging proxy war in Pakistan via Afghanistan are further reinforced by a 2013 speech by India's current National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in which he talked about about "Pakistan's vulnerabilities" to terrorism and India's ability to take advantage of it.  Here are some excerpts of his speech at Sastra University:

"How do you tackle Pakistan?.....We start working on Pakistan's vulnerabilities-- economic, internal security, political, isolating them internationally, it can be anything..... it can be defeating Pakistan's policies in Afghanistan...... You stop the terrorists by denying them weapons, funds and manpower. Deny them funds by countering with one-and-a-half times more funding. If they have 1200 crores give them 1800 crores and they are on our side...who are the Taliban fighting for? It's because they haven't got jobs or someone has misled them. The Taliban are mercenaries. So go for more of the covert thing (against Pakistan)..." Ajit Doval, India's National Security Advisor

Pakistan's Support of the Afghan Taliban:

General David Petraeus, former CIA director and commander of US troops in Afghanistan, has said there is no evidence of Pakistan playing a double game and supporting terrorists in Afghanistan. He was answering a question posed to him at a presentation at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British security think tank based in London.

Here's part of Gen Petraeus' response: "I looked very very hard then (as US commander in Afghanistan) and again as CIA director at the nature of the relationship between the various (militant) groups in FATA and Baluchistan and the Pakistan Army and the ISI and I was never convinced of what certain journalists have alleged (about ISI support of militant groups in FATA).... I have talked to them (journalists) asked them what their sources are and I have not been able to come to grips with that based on what I know from these different positions (as US commander and CIA director)".

Gen Petraeus did acknowledge that "there's communication between the ISI and various militant groups in FATA and Balochistan (Haqqanis, Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, etc) but some of it you'd do anyway as an intelligence service." He added that "there may be some degree of accommodation that is forced on them (Pakistanis) because of the limits of their (Pakistan's) forces."

The Way Forward:

A hasty US exit from Afghanistan is not imminent. The United States needs Pakistan to help stabilize Afghanistan. But how can this be achieved? Can increased US pressure on Pakistan elicit cooperation? Can US partnership with India do the trick? In my view, neither will work. What will work is an understanding of Pakistan's legitimate concerns in Afghanistan.

What are Pakistan's legitimate interests in Afghanistan? The answer is: Pakistan's national security interest in stopping the use of the Afghan territory to launch attacks against it. Any solution to the Afghan problem has to include firm guarantees that India or any other country will be denied the use of Afghan territory and various militant groups to destabilize Pakistan.

The US must understand there can be no stability in Afghanistan if Pakistan feels insecure. The US also needs to acknowledge that an unstable nuclear-armed Pakistan will pose a far bigger threat than any threat emanating from Afghanistan.


Trump's new Afghan strategy of increasing troop levels and ratcheting up the pressure on Pakistan will not work as long as Pakistan sees its vital national security interests threatened by India's proxy war being waged against it from the Afghan soil. Any solution to the Afghan problem must be regional. It has to include firm guarantees that India or any other country will be denied the use of Afghan territory to destabilize Pakistan.  The US must understand there can be no stability in Afghanistan if Pakistan feels insecure. The US also needs to acknowledge that an unstable nuclear-armed Pakistan will pose a far bigger threat than any threat emanating from Afghanistan.

Here's Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam discussing this subject with special guest United We Reach Chairperson Sabahat Rafiq and regular panelist Riaz Haq (

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

What is the Haqqani Network?

Why is India Sponsoring Terror in Pakistan?

Mullah Mansoor Akhtar Killing in US Drone Strike

Gen Petraeus Debunks Charges of Pakistani Duplicity

Husain Haqqani vs Riaz Haq on India vs Pakistan

Impact of Trump's Top Picks on Pakistan

Husain Haqqani Advising Trump on Pakistan Policy?

Gall-Haqqani-Paul Narrative on Pakistan

Pakistan-China-Russia vs India-US-Japan

Robert Gates' Straight Talk on Pakistan


Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan's $100B deal with China: What does it amount to?
By Nadia Naviwala

Early last year, the Pakistani government sent USAID officials in Islamabad a mystifying letter via snail mail: please stop doing feasibility studies for Diamer Basha Dam

When USAID got the letter in 2016, they suspected that Pakistan had found funding with the Chinese. They were right.


In May 2017 Pakistan and China signed a $50 billion agreement that included full funding for Diamer Basha and four other dams.

Although enormous, the new agreement hardly merited coverage in Pakistan. China already captured headlines and public imagination in 2013 when the two countries signed memorandums of understanding worth $46 billion to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. CPEC has since quietly grown to a $62 billion investment.

The latest $50 billion in memorandums now brings Chinese loans and investments in Pakistan to well over $100 billion. A senior member of the CPEC team at Pakistan’s Ministry for Planning, Development, and Reform predicts that figure will ultimately grow to $150 billion. If the dams face cost overruns — which are 96 percent on average — then that will be a conservative estimate.


roads and rail are actually a small part of Chinese money in Pakistan — less than $11 billion of the original $46 billion agreement. It’s small because, contrary to popular perceptions, much of the CPEC route is actually financed by Pakistan.

“Much of the roads being built are being built by our money,” says Miftah Ismail, who was Pakistan’s minister for investment until late last month, when the cabinet was dissolved because the Supreme Court voted to remove the prime minister on grounds of corruption.

What Ismail estimates Pakistan will take on in Chinese projects this year — $4 billion in loans and investments — equals what the Pakistani federal and provincial governments have allocated for roads and highways in their own annual budgets.

China is also financing the expansion and improvement of Pakistan’s neglected railway system, doubling its speed from 60 to 120 kilometers per hour.

CPEC roads will connect landlocked Xinjiang province in western China through a new port city that it is building on Pakistan’s coast, Gwadar. China needs these roads to transport goods out, but it is hard to think of what will go in the other direction. China’s exports to Pakistan account for two-thirds of Pakistan’s trade deficit.
Riaz Haq said…
#Trump's #AfghanStrategy Poised to Fail, #Pakistan's Premier Says. #Afghanistan #India #China … via @bpolitics

U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy for the nation’s longest-running war in Afghanistan will meet the same fate as the plans of his predecessors, according to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Failure.

“From day one we have been saying very clearly the military strategy in Afghanistan has not worked and it will not work,” Abbasi, who took over as premier three weeks ago, said in an interview Saturday night in Karachi. There has to be a “political settlement,” he added. “That’s the bottom-line.”

Abbasi said while his government supports the fight against terrorists it won’t let the war in neighboring Afghanistan -- the countries share a 2,500-kilometer (1,550 miles) border -- spill into Pakistan.

The stance of Abassi’s administration may complicate Trump’s plan for the region after he pledged more U.S. troops for Afghanistan and called on Pakistan to stop providing a safe haven for terrorists.

Failure by Trump to resolve the Afghan war risks even greater financial and human cost for the U.S., could leave it bogged down further in the conflict, and may become a further sore point for ties with China and Pakistan, with Trump already chiding Beijing for not doing enough to stop the turmoil. The war has cost the U.S. about $714 billion and several thousand lives.

Afghanistan’s government is slowly losing its hold over the country with the Taliban now controlling about 40 percent of the country, which U.S. officials say couldn’t have been possible without help from Pakistan’s military. That’s a charge the Asian nation disputes.

“This is a classic dialogue of the deaf between Washington and Islamabad because neither agrees on what needs to be pursued but both make a sham of going together,” said Burzine Waghmar, a member of the Centre for the Study of Pakistan at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. “U.S. priorities are not the same as Pakistan,” which wants
Afghanistan to stay dependent on it, he said.

The U.S. in previous offensives in Afghanistan used drones to attack alleged terrorists in Pakistan. NATO troops have also used Pakistani ports and roads to move equipment into land-locked Afghanistan.

“We do not intend to allow anybody to fight Afghanistan’s battle on Pakistan’s soil,” Abbasi said during the interview at the former home of the nation’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, while he was on a visit to the nation’s commercial capital. “Whatever has to happen in Afghanistan should be happening in Afghanistan,” he said, adding Pakistan doesn’t harbor terrorists.

China’s Role

Abbasi was picked by the ruling party as prime minister this month after the nation’s top court disqualified predecessor Nawaz Sharif in July.

Support and investment from China will help Pakistan defy the U.S.

China, which is seeking to build its economic and strategic clout in South Asia, has more than $50 billion in planned infrastructure projects in Pakistan. With China’s role increasing, Pakistan’s forces have fewer incentives to stop covertly supporting insurgent groups that strike inside Afghanistan and India, while targeting outfits that threaten its own domestic security, according to analysts.

Pakistan’s military has been conducting its own offensive against terrorists with the latest operation in the Khyber tribal region starting last month after Islamic State’s presence increased across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani army earlier said it had cleared North Waziristan on the Afghanistan border, a region the U.S. has called an “epicenter” of terrorism.
Riaz Haq said…
#Trump beware: #Pakistan’s luck playing #China card is turning. #AfghanStrategy #India #Afghanistan via @SCMP_news

As a result, if Pakistan comes under real pressure, China will probably be willing to extend forms of economic support and political protection it would previously have balked at. A version of this already played out in 2015, when Pakistan was being pushed by the Saudis and the UAE to play a significant role in the military campaign in Yemen. Chinese economic reassurances helped Pakistan to resist the entreaties and financial threats. China has also given stronger political cover to Pakistan in international forums.


At the lowest ebb of the last annus horribilis for US-Pakistan ties in 2011, soon after the special forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan brandished the China card: if relations with Washington were going into a tailspin, Islamabad would turn to Beijing instead. They were rebuffed. China discreetly made it clear to both the United States and Pakistan that the “all-weather friendship” was already as deep as they wanted it to be and that Islamabad needed to focus on fixing its relations with Washington.

With President Donald Trump’s announcement that the new US South Asia strategy will involve tightening the screws on Pakistan if it doesn’t address militant safe havens within its borders, the early indications are that the China card will be played again. This time, however, Pakistan may have more luck. The relationship with Beijing is in a very different place now and while China will take its usual care not to get caught in the middle, it is likely to provide a stronger backdrop of support than it did the last time US-Pakistan tensions escalated.

Some things haven’t changed. While it might seem that Beijing would see any deterioration of Islamabad’s ties with Washington as an opportunity to exploit, China has long perceived greater advantage in a robust US-Pakistan relationship. Given Pakistan’s most important role for China has been as a counterbalance to India, it wants Islamabad to benefit from solid US economic and military support. Healthy ties with Washington are seen by Beijing to place implicit limits on the scope of US-India relations. They also ensure that Pakistan doesn’t turn into yet another point of tension in US-China relations or act as an impediment to Sino-Pakistani security ties.

In addition to the fact that China’s once negligible economic interests in Pakistan have grown to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in investment, there is a political premium to making CPEC a success.

CPEC is also bound up in a deeper Chinese strategic commitment to Pakistan. As the People’s Liberation Army looks to expand its global power projection capabilities, it is strengthening ties with partners in areas ranging from naval cooperation to counterterrorism. In the last two years, the security relationship with Pakistani has been held up as a model to follow in this regard.
Riaz Haq said…
Analysis | #Trump says #Pakistan ‘harbors terrorists.’ The real story isn't so simple. #US pressure will not work

If Pakistan had a conscious policy of allowing a “haven for terrorists” in its territory, U.S. pressure might persuade the leadership to change it. Because the current situation reflects complicated domestic politics and any shift would probably result in pushback from the powerful military, the changes Washington wants are not likely to happen.

The United States has been putting pressure on Pakistan for decades, and neither tough words nor threats to cut off aid have worked for long. That suggests Pakistani leaders appear more afraid of a backlash from their society and military than they are of U.S. anger.

This does not bode well for the Trump administration’s new Afghanistan strategy. Stabilizing Afghanistan will be much easier with a cooperative Pakistan, but that is unlikely to happen. Instead of making threats, U.S. policymakers would be better off working out whatever temporary arrangements they can with Pakistan, realizing the constraints of Pakistan’s leaders — and perhaps considering other options that do not rely on Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan cancels 3 high-level meetings with #US since #AfghanStrategy, turns away from #Washington, looks to #China

Pakistan has called off three high-level meetings with Washington, as experts warn that President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan policy risks driving Islamabad closer towards Beijing.

Alice Wells, acting assistant secretary of state, and Lisa Curtis, who serves on the National Security Council, were due to visit Pakistan this week as the US looks to explain its new position to the key players in the region.

But Islamabad has indefinitely postponed both meetings, as well as a planned trip to the US by its foreign minister Khawaja Asif, in response to Mr Trump’s announcement last week that he intends to keep US troops in Afghanistan and accusing Pakistan of harbouring terrorists.

On Monday morning the US state department was still saying that the Pakistan visit was part of Ms Curtis’s three-country tour of the region but later confirmed it had been cancelled.

“At the request of the government of Pakistan, that trip has been postponed until a mutually convenient time,” a state department spokesperson said.

Mr Trump had called on Pakistan to do more to tackle cross-border terrorism, saying the country had “sheltered the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people”.

Citing an erosion of trust, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said future US support for Pakistan would be conditional on the country adopting “a different approach”.

Their comments sparked immediate anger in Islamabad. Over the weekend, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the country’s interim prime minister, said in an interview: “From day one we have been saying very clearly the military strategy in Afghanistan has not worked and it will not work.”

But analysts also warn the US policy is likely to push Pakistan closer into the embrace of China, which is investing more than $50bn in its southern neighbour as part of its “One Belt, One Road” project to create a new silk road of trade routes across the world.

They point out that instead of going to the US, Mr Asif is travelling to China, Turkey and Russia.

One senior foreign ministry official in Islamabad told the Financial Times: “In this hour of need once again, we have China standing firmly with us as president Trump threatens to bring the Afghan war to Pakistan.”

The official added: “We have put further discussions on hold and need to decide first, exactly how the [US-Pakistan] relationship can proceed productively”.

Pakistan has proved an important ally to the US since the Cold War, when it helped support the mujahideen resistance against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

But since then, the relationship has wavered. Washington has been torn between relying on the Islamabad government to provide a bridgehead to Afghanistan and the wider region, and criticising it for failing to tackle domestic terrorism.

In recent years, Pakistan has allowed the US to use its territory as a supply route into Afghanistan and accepted increasingly frequent drone attacks by US forces.


An official at the central bank in Karachi said, China’s role “is going to be very useful to avert a [balance of payments] crisis if there is one”.

For Beijing, the relationship offers a faster route to the sea for goods from western China, a new area of business for the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and an ally to support it in its fractious relationship with India.

Li Guofu, head of Middle Eastern research at the China Institute of International Studies, said: “Trump's new south Asia strategy, before it's been fully implemented, has already created a feeling of threat for Pakistan and aroused a strong negative response ... China has been actively trying to help the situation, and we are very concerned.”

But while Pakistan edges closer to China, analysts say it is unlikely to cut off ties completely with the US.
Riaz Haq said…
Is Pakistan Willing to Lose America?

For the past 16 years, whenever the United States has been faced with the reality of a failing war in Afghanistan, it has blamed Pakistan. Efforts to bring freedom to the valleys of Afghanistan, this narrative claims, have been thwarted by a double-dealing “ally” that takes American aid while supporting its enemies.

The narrative inadvertently casts American presidents, generals, diplomats, spies and others who have been part of the war effort as credulous dupes and casts poor light on the American military, stuck in a quagmire despite having the world’s most advanced weapons and largest financial resources. It also assumes that Pakistan has a clear interest in harming both the United States and Afghanistan.

Those assumptions are wrong.

Pakistan joined President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism reluctantly but proved itself an effective ally in the fight against Al Qaeda and helped decimate its ranks. That contribution was sullied by Pakistan’s failure to locate Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States established a partnership with Pakistan over a decade and a half — handing out substantial amounts of aid, sophisticated weapons and the status of major non-NATO ally. Pakistan continues to require American military hardware, and middle-class Pakistani children continue to dream of attending American universities and of working on Wall Street. The United States is the biggest market for Pakistani exports, and Pakistani-Americans form its seventh-largest diaspora group.

China’s rising global status, and its explicit push for regional influence, has reduced Pakistan’s dependence on the United States, but the rumors of the demise of America’s importance in Pakistan are greatly exaggerated.

Despite these factors, neither the United States nor Pakistan has gained all that it would like from the relationship. Pakistan has not been able to convince the United States of the validity of its primary interest in Afghanistan — preventing it from becoming a “proxy for India” and stemming fears of “encirclement” in Pakistan despite India’s proclamations of merely offering economic assistance to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s leaders have recently taken to brazenly welcoming an ever-increasing Indian footprint in Kabul and beyond. Pakistani hawks used to be merely suspicious of collusion between the most anti-Pakistan Afghans and the Indian establishment. In the past two years, that suspicion has turned into conviction.

For its part, the United States has failed to convince Pakistan of the urgency of its primary interest in Afghanistan — shutting down the Haqqani network, the principal planner and executor of the most lethal terrorist attacks in Afghanistan over the past decade. Pakistanis have hemmed and hawed, offering up low-level Haqqani operatives and occasionally trimming the space available to them.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan suspends talks, visits from/to #US after #Trump's #AfghanStrategy Speech

ISLAMABAD - The Senate Committee of the Whole House in its draft recommendations on the policy guidelines regarding post-Trump Afghan policy has proposed to the government to chalk out a “verifiable mechanism” to authenticate the allegations, both from Pakistan and Afghanistan, about cross-border terrorism.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif informed the committee on Monday that Pakistan had suspended talks and bilateral visits to the US as a protest following the tough remarks of US President Donald Trump against Pakistan while outlining his plan for Afghanistan and South Asia, sources told The Nation.

The special committee that held its in-camera meeting to finalise the draft proposals of the subcommittee, already formed by Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani for policy guidelines on the situation arising out of the US president’s plan on Afghanistan as well as his diatribe against Pakistan.

The foreign minister said that the Pakistan had taken the remarks of US president serious and added that US president’s policy on South Asia did not give any military role to India in Afghanistan. He was of the view that it was rather a role of economic development.

He said that the US thought that India’s increasing economic activities in Afghanistan would ultimately help bring economic stability in the region, the sources informed.

Asif also said that the US was not willing to accept Pakistan’s stance about India that the latter was involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan while using the soil of Afghanistan.

The lawmakers during the meeting sought the details of the Indian sponsored terrorism incidents in Pakistan - including the ones carried out by India’s serving naval officer and RAW spy Kulbushan Jhadev.

They also sought from the government a fact-sheet on US financial assistance received after 9/11, including the reimbursed amount of coalition support fund (CSF), and the financial loss incurred by the country while playing the role of a frontline state in the war on terrorism.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua informed the committee that a three-day meeting, commencing from September 5, of Pakistan’s envoys, had been summoned to finalise a strategy over the situation.

The Whole Committee would again meet today (Wednesday) as the lawmakers made some amendments in the draft of the policy guidelines and sent it back to the sub-committee. The sub-committee would present the final draft proposals today before the Whole Committee and the same would be adopted by the Upper House tomorrow (Wednesday) along with the passage of a resolution.

The National Assembly is also set to adopt a similar resolution on Wednesday after which resolutions and input of both the houses will be placed before the National Security Council (NSC) to chalk out a policy.

Senator Mushahid Hussain, a member of the subcommittee, gave a detailed briefing to the Committee of the Whole House and suggested the government to constitute a permanent Inter-Ministerial Task Force for an immediate response to any emergency situation vis-a-vis US policy shift.

Pakistan should use the Quadrilateral Counterterrorism Coordination Mechanism (QCCM) forum to neutralise the US concerns, he said. He also advised the government to give a regional response to the United States with the help of Turkey, Russia, and China.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed also appreciated formation of the committee, which was assigned to finalise a draft in four days but the task was accomplished within few hours.

He said the parliament was working as per the aspirations of the people on all the important issues confronting the country.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said both houses of parliament should adopt their own resolutions on the issue. “There is no harm if the National Assembly adopts the Senate resolution, but they should bring their own resolution,” he said. The foreign minister endorsed the idea.

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan Army Aviation Receives 4 Mi-35M Advanced Attack #Helicopters From #Russia. @Diplomat_APAC

The Pakistan Army Aviation Corps (PAAC) took delivery of four Russian-made Mi-35M attack helicopters, Pakistan’s Defense Export Promotion Organization (DEPO) confirmed in a statement issued at this year’s International Military-Technical Forum (Army 2017), which took place August 22-27 in Moscow, according to local media reports.

“The contract was signed, we received all four cars [Mi-35Ms] and now we get new equipment,” DEPOs Brigadier General Waheed Mumtaz told reporters in Moscow. PAAC are now getting acquainted with the new equipment. Based on the gunships’ performance a follow-up order for additional helicopters is under consideration, Mumtaz said. The general also noted that other Pakistani orders of Russian military equipment might take place depending on the Pakistani military’s experience with the helicopters.

Russia officially lifted an arms embargo against Pakistan, in place since the Soviet-Afghan War, in June 2014.

Pakistan and Russia agreed to the $153 million helicopter deal during then-Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif’s visit to Russia in June 2016. A preliminary contract was concluded at the Pakistan Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi in August 2015. Pakistan military sources indicate that PAAC could purchase a total of 20 Mi-35 helicopters in the coming years. “Given the cost of building the necessary Mi-35M logistics and maintenance infrastructure, expanding the fleet beyond four aircraft would financially be a sound decision for the Pakistani military,” I explained in December 2016. The Mi-25M is a formidable weapons platform, as I noted elsewhere (See: “Confirmed: Pakistan Is Buying New Attack Helicopters From Russia”):

The Mi-35M attack helicopter, the export version of the Mi-24 gunship, was developed by the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant and has been produced in Russia since 2005. Next to serving in the Russian military, the aircraft has been exported to Azerbaijan, Brazil, Iraq, and Venezuela.

The company website of Russian Helicopters notes that the Mi-35 is particularly suited for mountainous terrain and can be deployed “round the clock” in adverse weather conditions. The website notes that the helicopter offers “combat use of guided and unguided weapons in regular and challenging climate conditions” and is “operational for attack flights at altitudes of 10-25 m daytime and 50 m at night over land or water.”

The helicopter can be deployed for a host of different missions, including transporting up to eight paratroopers and carrying military supplies weighing up to 1,500 kg internally and 2,400 kg externally.

It is unknown in what configuration the helicopters were delivered. The gunship is fitted with a mounted twin-barrel GSh-23V 23 millimeter cannon, and can also carry 80 and 120 millimeter rockets, as well as anti-tank guided missiles. The Pakistan Army is specifically looking to enhance its close-air support capability for counter-insurgency operations as well as anti-tank warfare.

Riaz Haq said…
After #Trump’s bluster, #US officials busy in damage control with #Pakistan on #AfghanStrategy. #Afghanistan

US President Donald Trump’s criticism of Islamabad for America’s military failure in Afghanistan has ruffled Pakistan’s feathers. The country’s top civil leadership and military commanders snubbed Trump’s allegations with one voice amid street protests against the American leader in different towns and cities of the country.

The blistering reaction from Pakistan has apparently prompted the American officialdom to pacify the frayed tempers. The Trump administration is learnt to have approached Pakistan to allay concerns and convey a possible change in policy. “The two countries are expected to engage at a top level to talk out the contentious points,” a source told Daily Express.

US Ambassador in Islamabad David Hale has swung into action for damage control exercise. He met National Security Adviser Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua on Thursday to clarify that that President Donald Trump had not blamed Pakistan for the failure in Afghanistan.

He also attempted to assuage rampant fears in the Pakistani officialdom on an enhanced role that Trump’s new strategy envisages for India in Afghanistan. Lt Gen (retd) Janjua told the US envoy that creation of competitiveness in a campaign and alliance is counter-productive. “We should not go that way,” he cautioned.

Highly credible sources told Daily Express that the US administration has started poring over how to tweak the Afghan policy in order to pacify resentment in Pakistan and address the country’s objections. And the same has been conveyed to Islamabad through diplomatic channels.

Two key global players China and Russia have already rejected Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan and beyond and opposed the American move to pile up pressure on Islamabad. Pakistani officialdom is clear that the country can bank upon Beijing and Moscow instead of Washington.

Trump’s policy has clearly divided the stakeholders in two blocs – one comprising Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran; and the other comprising the United States and India. More countries are expected to join the first alliance, according to sources.

Officials at the Foreign Office say Pakistan is convinced that Trump’s new strategy has failed to garner support in the international community.
Riaz Haq said…
#Indian Journalist Karan Thapar: #Trump’s threats will mean little to #Pakistan. #AfghanStrategy via @htTweets

For a start, this won’t be the first time America has threatened to cut aid to Pakistan. In fact, there are at least two occasions in the past when it actually did but that failed to alter Islamabad’s behaviour.

American aid first picked up in the mid-1950s, after Pakistan joined US-led military alliances, touching $3 billion in 1963 and then fell to virtually zero in 1980, in the wake of American concerns about Islamabad’s nuclear weapons programme. However, Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions did not change and this was, therefore, the first time an aid cut didn’t work.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan changed everything and US aid was restored. It was virtually one billion right through the ’80s. But in the 1990s, after the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan and George Bush the elder’s refusal to certify Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapons, American aid collapsed. But, again, Pakistani behaviour was unaffected.

Once again, 9/11 altered everything. Since then Pakistan has received more than $30 billion. But are things likely to be different this time?

No and for one simple reason. America’s Afghanistan involvement reinforces US dependence on Pakistan for its supply lines. As American troop levels in Afghanistan surge Pakistan’s leverage over Washington will simultaneously grow. In these circumstances it’s hard to see Trump cut US aid.

However, for argument’s sake, let’s suppose Trump is determined to act. In that event how much will a reduction in US aid affect Pakistan? Last year remittances from Pakistani expatriate workers totalled $19.8 billion. In comparison, the well-informed Congressional Research Service estimates that US aid amounted to $1.098 billion.

No wonder Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, responded dismissively to the possibility that Trump could cut financial support. “We are not looking for any material or financial assistance from the USA,” he said. Indeed, it’s quite possible his country could carry on comfortably without it.

The same is also increasingly true of the arms and weaponry Pakistan acquires from America. No doubt the United States has supplied F16 fighter planes, P3 Orion aircraft and AH-IF Cobra helicopters but, increasingly, a preponderant proportion of Pakistani arms are Chinese made. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute believes that nearly 70% of its military supplies between 2012 and 2016 came from China. Once again, US leverage has diminished.

America, of course, has enormous kinetic power which it could unleash. Washington could directly target jihadi bases by using its drones or, even, some repeat of the strategy to take out Osama bin Laden. But this would infuriate the Pakistani army and inflame public opinion. That’s why it’s unlikely to happen while US involvement in Afghanistan is dependent upon Pakistani supply-lines.

Finally, Trump had nothing specific to say about Pakistani terror groups, like the Lashkar and Jaish, which target India. At best, they were covered generically. If he is serious about reforming this prodigal ally we should also question his silence on this front.
Riaz Haq said…
#China, #Pakistan take swipes at #Trump's #Afghan policy. #AfghanStrategy #Afghanistan

The top diplomats from China and Pakistan took swipes at President Donald Trump's newly unveiled Afghanistan policy on Friday as they called for new talks with the Taliban to resolve the 16-year conflict.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing stood firmly behind its "ironclad friend" Pakistan, even though "some countries" did not give Islamabad the credit it deserved in fighting terrorism, a pointed reference to the U.S.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif's first trip abroad to Beijing this week appeared to highlight how ties between the two all-weather allies have grown even closer while Pakistan's critical relationship with the U.S. is disintegrating amid mutual recriminations and distrust.

Wang and Asif announced that China, Pakistan and Afghanistan will hold a new series of three-way talks later this year in China to push forward settlement negotiations with the Taliban while the U.S. doubles down on its military campaign.

Trump infuriated Pakistan last month when he accused Islamabad of providing extremists safe haven and threatened to withhold military aid. He further raised alarms in Pakistan when he raised the prospect of recruiting archrival India into the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said this week that $225 million in military aid for Pakistan have been suspended while about 3,500 additional troops will head to Afghanistan to reverse the Taliban's battleground advances and gain leverage in negotiations.

"It's our firm view that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, the focus should be on a politically negotiated settlement," Asif told reporters in Beijing. "China is playing a very constructive role in this regard."

Pakistan has repeatedly rejected U.S. accusations that it is abetting groups like the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network, a position that China has backed.

"The government and people of Pakistan have made huge sacrifices in the fight against terror for everyone to see and the international community should recognize that," Wang said.

The two ministers presented a closely unified front just days after China handed Pakistan an unexpected diplomatic setback at the BRICS economic summit in Xiamen. On Monday, China joined several nations to declare the Pakistan-based militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad as terrorist organizations, in a move that was praised by India and the U.S.

Asif did not address the terror designation on Friday but was quoted by Pakistani media before arriving in Beijing as saying that it should not jeopardize bilateral ties. Rather, Pakistan should put its "house in order," he said.
Riaz Haq said…
US weighs dropping Pakistan as an ally

Trump administration accuses country of housing militants as relations hit new low

The Trump administration is considering dropping Pakistan as an ally as it examines tough measures to quell more than 20 terrorist groups it says are based in the country.

Officials familiar with the Pakistan prong of Washington’s new “AfPak” strategy — which involves an open-ended commitment in Afghanistan and praise for India — say it has yet to be fleshed out. But they have plenty of levers.

President Donald Trump last month promised to get tough on Pakistan, accusing it of “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting”. It was the most public breach yet in an often rocky relationship.

“No US president has come out on American national television and said such things about Pakistan,” said Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan ambassador to the US.

“US policymakers are at the end of their tethers about what they see as Pakistan not helping them while promising to help them.”

The administration has already put $255m in military aid on hold after Mr Trump announced the policy shift. It is eyeing an escalating series of threats, which include cutting some civilian aid, conducting unilateral drone strikes on Pakistani soil and imposing travel bans on suspect officers of the ISI, the country’s intelligence agency. It could also revoke Pakistan’s status as a major non-Nato ally or designate it a state sponsor of terrorism.

The latter options would limit weapons sales and probably affect billions of dollars in IMF and World Bank loans, along with access to global finance.

“Thinking of Pakistan as an ally will continue to create problems for the next administration as it did for the last one,” Lisa Curtis, former CIA analyst who now leads South Asia policy in the National Security Council, wrote in a joint report with Mr Haqqani earlier this year.

Ms Curtis, who works closely with the state department, believes the Obama administration “erred” by relying on personal ties and aid packages to try to change Pakistan’s behaviour.


Relations are expected to take a further blow from US efforts to forge closer ties with rival India. “We need to respect and trust India — they have not leaked nuclear secrets or shared sensitive nuclear technology with rogue countries,” said Tim Roemer, former US ambassador to India, a reference to Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation.

Pakistan prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said this week it is “unfair” to blame his country for troubles in Afghanistan, adding that the US should have greater respect for its efforts to combat militancy.

Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador to Pakistan in the wake of 9/11, says Pakistan resents the wild oscillations in support from the US.

“They went from our most allied of allies to our most sanctioned of sanctioned,” he said, recalling that the US worked with Pakistan to defeat Soviet Russia during the 1980s Afghanistan invasion but, once it had won, cut aid and imposed sanctions over its emergent nuclear programme.

“Their narrative about us is here today, gone tomorrow and it has deeply affected their strategic thinking.”

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan says it needs no financial assistance from #US. #USAID #Trump #Afghanistan

Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Saturday that the country needs no financial assistance from the US, which it accuses of ignoring Pakistan’s effective operations in the war on terror.
“We do not need any financial assistance from the United States. We do not care about it. If America wants to stop it, we will loudly say go ahead,” Dr. Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson for Pakistan’s Foreign Office, told Arab News in an interview.
“Pakistan receives a paltry amount in terms of Coalition Support Fund from the US, and if the Trump administration withholds it, it will hardly make any difference to a country of 207 million people,” he said.
The Coalition Support Fund is a reimbursement to Pakistan from the US of expenses incurred in operations against militants and compensation for logistical facilities made available to the coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.
As relations between the US and Pakistan have soured in recent months, the Trump administration, according to a New York Times report, is contemplating withholding $255 million in aid to Pakistan as “a show of dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s broader intransigence toward confronting the terrorist networks that operate there.”
“We will insist that Pakistan take decisive action against militant and terrorist groups operating from its soil,” the US said in its National Security Strategy announced by President Donald Trump on Dec. 18.
“The United States continues to face threats from transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan,” it said. “We will press Pakistan to intensify its counterterrorism efforts, since no partnership can survive a country’s support for militants and terrorists who target a partner’s own service members and officials.”
Dr. Mohammad Faisal, however, vehemently rejects the US allegations, saying that Pakistan’s security forces have undertaken indiscriminate and effective operations against terrorism and extremism in recent years.
“Pakistan is a more stable, peaceful and secure country after these operations,” he said. “We have repeatedly informed the US that no organized structure of any terrorist outfit exists in Pakistan.”
He advised the US to focus on factors responsible for exponential increase in drug production, expansion of ungoverned spaces, breakdown of governance and letting Daesh gain a foothold in Afghanistan instead of pressuring Pakistan to do more.
“We remain committed to protect our sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interest determined by the people of Pakistan,” he said.
Relations between Pakistan and the US soured after President Donald Trump accused the country of providing a “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror” while launching the US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia on Aug. 21.
Air Marshal (retd) Shahid Latif told Arab News that the US has been blaming Pakistan for its failure in the war against terror in Afghanistan and is threatening Pakistan with dire consequences — action that is unbecoming of an ally such as the US.
“We will do no more to support the United States in our region,” he said while fully endorsing Pakistan’s attitude toward the US.
“The Trump administration has been threatening Pakistan instead of acknowledging our tremendous sacrifices in the war against terror and this is totally unacceptable to us,” he said.
Ayaz Wazir, a former diplomat, told Arab News that Pakistan is a sovereign country and the Trump administration cannot cow it down through threats of unilateral actions against militants and stopping of financial aid.
“The US has totally failed in restoring law and order in Afghanistan and it wants to make Pakistan a scapegoat by accusing it of harboring militants on its soil,” he said. “Around 22 terrorist outfits including Daesh are still active in Afghanistan despite the presence of the US troops since 2001.”

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan has friends in Kabul
By Taimur ShamilPublished: January 25, 2018

After returning from my recent trip to Kabul, many people that I met back home were concerned about Pakistan’s image in Kabul — opportunities for cooperation and the intensity of anti-Pakistan sentiment in Afghanistan. My answer to them was simple. Pakistan, socially and politically, has friends in Kabul and the opportunities for Pakistan are many, if we try.

Here are the facts: in terms of social relations, every day between 2,000 to 3,000 visas are issued from Kabul alone to Pakistan. The numbers of visas issued from the rest of Pakistani consulates are additional, that may vary from 800 to 1,000 as per Pakistani officials. The Afghans who travel on these visas are usually travelling for health and educational reasons. The patients who travel to Pakistan feel more comfortable in Pakistan than any other country. The reasons being obvious, most of them share the same culture, language, religion and most of the times clans and tribes as well. Also that many of them have been frequently travelling to Pakistan for the last many years. Majority of them have their families in Pakistan that either migrated during the Soviet-Afghan war or later during the last decade. These Afghans who come to Pakistan also find Pakistan economically affordable as compared to other countries in the region. It is to be kept in mind that most of the Afghans live in abject poverty and lack basic health facilities. Therefore, Pakistan is the logical and economical option.

Interestingly almost every third person that I met, Dari (Persian spoken in Afghanistan) dominated, Kabul could speak and understand Urdu. Most of the people who could speak Urdu were young Afghans. They had either been educated or had spent considerable time doing jobs in Pakistan. They have good memories attached to the neighbouring country which welcomed and hosted them.

After meeting the young Afghans, I realised that when it comes to Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, higher education is Pakistan’s strength. While Pakistan has itself improved the quality of higher education, it has worked on giving scholarships to Afghan students who want to pursue their academic ambitions. Islamabad is generally multi-linguistic city and multi-ethnic as well. One can find Hazaras, Persian speaking, and Pakhtuns in large numbers in different universities of the capital. This naturally gives the Afghan students a conducive environment to blend in.

Last year the Higher Education Commission announced scholarships to 3,000 Afghan students and a large number of those are females. These young students are the bridges and ambassadors of peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and a huge potential for the future of democracy and peace in Afghanistan. The tapping of this potential needs the Foreign Office’s attention now more than ever.

A lot of Pakistanis are concerned about anti-Pakistan sentiments brewing in Kabul. The concerns are, no doubt, justified and show Pakistan’s concern and urge to improve its relations with the people of Afghanistan. After all, Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the decades and expects that the refugees become the ambassadors of goodwill between the two countries when they return to their home country. For that Pakistan too needs consideration on smooth transition of refugees from Pakistani soil to Afghanistan. It doesn’t need to be rough and loaded with blame. That ruins the very spirit with which Pakistan hosted them for decades.
Riaz Haq said…
How the #heroin #Narco #trade explains the #US-#UK failure in #Afghanistan. #Washington’s massive military juggernaut has been stopped in its steel tracks by a small pink flower – the opium poppy. #Taliban #Trump #Pakistan

After fighting the longest war in its history, the US stands at the brink of defeat in Afghanistan. How could this be possible? How could the world’s sole superpower have battled continuously for more than 16 years – deploying more than 100,000 troops at the conflict’s peak, sacrificing the lives of nearly 2,300 soldiers, spending more than $1tn (£740bn) on its military operations, lavishing a record $100bn more on “nation-building”, helping fund and train an army of 350,000 Afghan allies – and still not be able to pacify one of the world’s most impoverished nations? So dismal is the prospect of stability in Afghanistan that, in 2016, the Obama White House cancelled a planned withdrawal of its forces, ordering more than 8,000 troops to remain in the country indefinitely.


Despite almost continuous combat since the invasion of October 2001, pacification efforts have failed to curtail the Taliban insurgency, largely because the US simply could not control the swelling surplus from the country’s heroin trade. Its opium production surged from around 180 tonnes in 2001 to more than 3,000 tonnes a year after the invasion, and to more than 8,000 by 2007. Every spring, the opium harvest fills the Taliban’s coffers once again, funding wages for a new crop of guerrilla fighters.

At each stage in its tragic, tumultuous history over the past 40 years – the covert war of the 1980s, the civil war of the 90s and its post-2001 occupation – opium has played a central role in shaping the country’s destiny. In one of history’s bitter ironies, Afghanistan’s unique ecology converged with American military technology to transform this remote, landlocked nation into the world’s first true narco-state – a country where illicit drugs dominate the economy, define political choices and determine the fate of foreign interventions.


The failure of America’s intervention in Afghanistan offers broader insight into the limits to its global power. The persistence of both opium cultivation and the Taliban insurgency suggest the degree to which the policies that Washington has imposed upon Afghanistan since 2001 have reached a dead end. For most people worldwide, economic activity, the production and exchange of goods, is the prime point of contact with their government. When, however, a country’s most significant commodity is illegal, then political loyalties naturally shift to the economic networks that move that product safely and secretly from fields to foreign markets, providing protection, finance and employment at every stage. “The narcotics trade poisons the Afghan financial sector and fuels a growing illicit economy,” John Sopko explained in 2014. “This, in turn, undermines the Afghan state’s legitimacy by stoking corruption, nourishing criminal networks and providing significant financial support to the Taliban and other insurgent groups.”
Riaz Haq said…
BBC News - #Taliban threaten 70% of #Afghanistan, BBC finds. #UnitedStates, #UK, #Pakistan

Taliban fighters, whom US-led forces spent billions of dollars trying to defeat, are now openly active in 70% of Afghanistan, a BBC study has found.

Months of research across the country shows that the Taliban now control or threaten much more territory than when foreign combat troops left in 2014.

The Afghan government played down the report, saying it controls most areas.

But recent attacks claimed by Taliban and Islamic State group militants have killed scores in Kabul and elsewhere.

Afghan officials and US President Donald Trump have responded by ruling out any talks with the Taliban. Last year Mr Trump announced the US military would stay in the country indefinitely.

The BBC research also suggests that IS is more active in Afghanistan than ever before, although it remains far less powerful than the Taliban.

How much territory do the Taliban control?
The BBC study shows the Taliban are now in full control of 14 districts (that's 4% of the country) and have an active and open physical presence in a further 263 (66%), significantly higher than previous estimates of Taliban strength.

About 15 million people - half the population - are living in areas that are either controlled by the Taliban or where the Taliban are openly present and regularly mount attacks.

"When I leave home, I'm uncertain whether I will come back alive," said one man, Sardar, in Shindand, a western district that suffers weekly attacks. "Explosions, terror and the Taliban are part of our daily life."

The extent to which the Taliban have pushed beyond their traditional southern stronghold into eastern, western and northern parts of the country is clearly visible from the BBC study.

Areas that have fallen to the Taliban since 2014 include places in Helmand province like Sangin, Musa Qala and Nad-e Ali, which foreign forces fought and died to bring under government control after US-led troops had driven the Taliban from power in 2001. More than 450 British troops died in Helmand between 2001 and 2014.

In the areas defined as having an active and open Taliban presence, the militants conduct frequent attacks against Afghan government positions. These range from large organised group strikes on military bases to sporadic single attacks and ambushes against military convoys and police checkpoints.

Riaz Haq said…
After 16 Years, Afghanistan War Is 'At Best A Grinding Stalemate,' Journalist Says

by Terry Gross

"Most of the generals ... say in public, 'There's no military solution to this war,'" Coll says. "This is at best a grinding stalemate. And yet, we prioritize military action at the expense of diplomacy, at the expense of negotiating."

On the current state of the war in Afghanistan

We're in a stalemate. We're in a muddle. We have something like 10,000 troops there, maybe growing a little higher over the next year or so.

There are actually two wars that we're fighting in Afghanistan, I'm not sure most Americans appreciate that. One is a direct combat war against remnants or elements of the Islamic State that have popped up in eastern Afghanistan. There President Obama initiated, and President Trump continued, a return to direct combat in Afghanistan, after previously, at the end of 2014, saying we were done with the war.

The second war is the one that we transitioned to in 2014, which is to advise and assist the Afghan security forces — the Afghan army and police — in their combat against the Taliban, an indigenous Afghan movement that we're all too familiar with after all these years, which controls significant swaths of the Afghan countryside.

So our muddled war policy is that we're directly at war with the Islamic State, but we're not directly at war with the Taliban, except to the extent that we're supporting Afghan forces. But what that means as a practical matter is that we're their air force; we have the planes. So when the Afghan forces need bombs dropped on Taliban positions, that's generally us doing the bombing. The number of bombs that we've been dropping on Afghanistan has increased significantly in 2017 over the year before.

On why Pakistan supports the Taliban

Pakistan's generals seemed to conclude ... that Afghanistan was going to become an ally of India with international backing [and] that they needed to encourage the Taliban support. ...


What's happened, where we are now, is that there are 25,000, 30,000 Afghan Taliban guerrilla soldiers fighting the war, going in and out of Pakistan, but fighting the war on Afghan ground. Those units include these suicide bomber, truck bomber units that occasionally kill scores of innocent civilians in Kabul, as we've seen over the last couple of weeks, a couple of horrific attacks.

And then inside Pakistan, the effort by the Pakistani Taliban to overthrow their government has really faltered. The Pakistani state has restored security over the last couple of years to a significant degree. Not entirely — I think 500 civilians died in terrorist attacks in Pakistan last year — but [that's] compared to many thousands a few years ago, when the country looked like it might collapse.
Riaz Haq said…
Is #Trump handing over #Afghanistan to #Pakistan by #US #Troops withdrawal?. The #Taliban, the strongest force in the country, have not been defeated yet. On the contrary, their control over #Afghan territories has increased manifold in past few years.

The Trump administration is reportedly planning to withdraw nearly 7,000 US troops – roughly half of the American military presence in the country – from Afghanistan.

US media claims that these soldiers could be heading back home within months.

These reports emerged after President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the "Islamic State" militant group had been defeated in Syria and thus the Middle Eastern country no longer required US troops there.

But the Taliban – the strongest militant force in Afghanistan – have not been defeated yet. On the contrary, their control over Afghan territories has increased manifold in the past few years. If this is the case, why must Washington reduce its presence in the war-torn country?

The US has intensified efforts to find a political solution with the Taliban in the past few months, with Zalmay Khalilzad, the US' special representative for Afghanistan, holding several high-profile talks with Taliban leaders in Qatar.

A victory for Pakistan?

These talks are being facilitated by Pakistan, whose prime minister, Imran Khan, maintains that the Islamist group can't be defeated through war.

However, both Kabul and Washington have been skeptical of Islamabad's long-term motives in Afghanistan. Afghan and US officials have repeatedly said that Pakistan backs some factions of the Taliban that destabilize the Afghan government. By doing that, the powerful Pakistani military hopes to minimize Indian influence in Afghanistan and a return of the Taliban in Afghan politics, they say.

Pakistan's military and civil establishment, analysts say, still consider the Taliban an important strategic ally, who they think should be part of the Afghan government after the NATO pullout.

Observers say that the Pakistani military hopes to regain the influence in Kabul it once enjoyed before the United States and its allies toppled the pro-Pakistan Taliban government in 2001.

Pakistan's Afghanistan policy hasn't changed since the US toppled the Taliban regime in 2001, but the Trump administration's stance toward Islamabad has wavered in the past few weeks, experts point out.

The potential US troop reduction would likely to give an upper hand to Islamabad in dictating the future political setup in Afghanistan.

Siegfried O. Wolf from the Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF) told DW that he was convinced that several elements within the Pakistani security apparatus still believe that the Taliban could be used as a strategic tool to counter Indian presence in Afghanistan.

'Weakening your own position'

It remains to be seen whether President Trump would actually withdraw 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, but the fact that the US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis – one of the main supporters of a strong US military presence in Afghanistan – is leaving his post in February, 2019, has definitely created more uncertainty around the West's Afghan mission.

"If the US actually goes ahead with the troop reduction plan, it would be a manifestation of Trump's 'America First' policy," Thomas Ruttig, an expert from the Afghan Analysts Network, told DW.

"But at a time with Khalilzad is trying to negotiate with the Taliban, the troop reduction does not make any sense," he added.

"This would weaken the positions of both Washington and Kabul in the middle of peace talks," Ruttig emphasized.

But some experts are of the view that a potential troop withdrawal could be a calculated decision by Trump.
Riaz Haq said…
Ryan Crocker, who also served as the US ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007, told government interviewers that Pakistani leaders did not bother to hide their duplicity, the Post reported. He recalled a conversation he had with General Ashfaq Kayani, who was the chief of Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and one of the principal plotters of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. “And he says, ‘You know, I know you think we’re hedging our bets. You’re right, we are, because one day you’ll be gone again, it’ll be like Afghanistan the first time, you’ll be done with us, but we’re still going to be here because we can’t actually move the country. And the last thing we want with all of our other problems is to have turned the Taliban into a mortal enemy, so, yes, we’re hedging our bets,’” Crocker quoted Kayani as saying. .Read more at India No 1 Defence News Website .


‘Veering off the original track’ According to hundreds of confidential interviews revealed in The Washington Post report, US and allied officials admitted they veered off in directions that had little to do with al Qaeda or 9/11 in what was their first mistake in the prolonged war. “By expanding the original mission, they said they adopted fatally flawed warfighting strategies based on misguided assumptions about a country they did not understand,” said the Post report. The result was an “unwinnable conflict with no easy way out”. Further, the issue was compounded because of the US war in Iraq and against the Islamic State, pulling the attention off from Afghanistan. “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute told government interviewers in 2015. Lute is a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations. “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking,” added Lute. .Read more at India No 1 Defence News Website .
Riaz Haq said…
Ties between Al Zulfikar and Afghan President Babrak Karmal (KHAD/NDS) sour with Alamgir execution
Alamgir execution touches off a new wave of mutual recrimination between Damascus-based organisation and pro-Soviet regime of President Babrak Karmal.

In 1979, months after the hanging of Bhutto, Al Zulfikar was organised on the soil of Afghanistan with active patronage from the Afghan authorities, and both Murtaza and Shahnawaz were sheltered in Kabul.

Alamgir, accompanied by Naser Jamal and Arshad Butt, all Karachi boys belonging to Al Zulfikar, hijacked the PIA Boeing on March 2, 1981 from Karachi to Kabul in what has gone down as the longest air piracy in history - nine days - following which the Pakistani authorities had to accede to the hijackers' demand of releasing 52 political prisoners, many of whom were awaiting capital punishment.

Significantly, the hijacking was not condemned by the Afghan authorities at that time even though the prisoners were released by the Pakistani authorities at their own insistence at Damascus and not in Kabul. However, relations between Al Zulfikar and the Kabul Government were getting increasingly sour since 1981 when the Afghans, nettled by Al Zulfiqar's internal squabbles on Afghan soil, began interfering with them in a big way.

Finally, Murtaza and Shahnawaz left their haven in Afghanistan and headed for Libya. The two now operate from Tripoli, the Libyan capital, and Damascus, the capital of Syria, and command a well-trained militia of about 1,500 men. Even Alamgir did not enter Afghanistan for a long time since the hijacking.
He re-entered Afghanistan, according to the Radio Kabul announcement, on March 14 last year, apparently under orders from the Al Zulfikar leadership to liquidate Sinwari, a former Al Zulfikar activist who had adopted Afghan nationality and was suspected of being an Afghan plant in the organisation.

Diplomatic sources in New Delhi said Alamgir was sent from Libya and he might have travelled with false documents. He shot Sinwari dead on March 16 in front of a theatre in Kabul and was arrested by the security police in dramatic circumstances at Kabul Airport the same night, minutes before he was to fly out.

Informed diplomats in Kabul and New Delhi interpret the Afghan action as a determined move by the Afghan Government to strike an anti-terrorist posture and to restore normalcy in its relations with the outside world. The fallout of the 1981 hijack had been costly for the Afghans.

Group of Seven, the powerful member countries of the International Civil Aviation Organisation including the US, Canada, West Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Japan, decided to boycott Afghanistan, thus denying Ariana, the Afghan national carrier landing rights all along the lucrative route of Frankfurt, Paris and London.

The state-controlled Pakistani media prominently displayed the news of Alamgir's execution, thus hinting that Pakistan appreciated the posture of toughness adopted by the Afghans against the assorted followers of the Bhutto family. The Kabul Government also wants direct talks to immediately commence with Pakistan, a desire which can come true only if the latter recognises the Karmal regime.

In dealing strictly with Al Zulfikar, President Karmal has neutralised a major irritant in the way. But, along the Baluchistan front, there are still 5,000 Baluch guerillas garrisoned at the Afghan town of Kandahar, which Pakistan sees as the main stumbling block to normalisation of relations.
Riaz Haq said…
#Afghan #Taliban leader Stanikzai. #India has always played a negative role in Afghanistan. India supported traitors in the country” | The Express Tribune

Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, the chief Taliban negotiator, on Sunday said that India has always supported traitors in Afghanistan.

“India has always played a negative role in Afghanistan. India supported traitors in the country,” Stanikzai said in an interview today, according to Hashim Wahdatyar, former director at Institute of Current World Affairs.

Washington-based Wahdatyar didn’t share details of the interview, which has already ruffled feathers in India as its jingoistic media has started agitating the statement.

India has repeatedly been accused of using the Afghan soil to destabilise its arch nemesis Pakistan. And it has been investing massively in minority ethnic groups against the ethnic Pashtun majority in Afghanistan due to their Pakistan-leaning.

While retweeting Wahdatyar’s statement, Pakistan’s sci-tech minister Fawad Chaudhry said India’s involvement was a serious threat to peace in Afghanistan. He also asked New Delhi to “stay out” of Afghanistan and let peace prevail in the war-ravaged country.

A recent upsurge in violence in Afghanistan threatens the historic peace agreement between the Taliban and the United States in the Qatari capital of Doha.

India has always sided with the ethnic minorities against the Pashtun majority in Afghanistan since the civil war following the Soviet withdrawal from the strife-torn country.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, during a recent India tour, said in an interview with The Hindu newspaper that it would be “appropriate” for an India-Taliban engagement.

Asked if he was open to an Indian dialogue with the Taliban, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Asad Khan said: “If India feels that their engagement is going to help the peace process, then we would defer to their judgment. But it’s not for us to sit in judgment on what they should do or they shouldn’t do.”
Riaz Haq said…
#Russia Alleges #US, Not #Taliban, Breaching #Afghan Peace Deal: Taliban are “flawlessly” adhering to the terms of a 2020 peace deal with the United States to help end the war in #Afghanistan and is urging #Washington not to renege on its commitments.

Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s presidential envoy to Afghanistan, spoke ahead of Wednesday’s NATO conference aimed at determining whether to meet a May 1 deadline agreed to with the Taliban for the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops from Afghanistan. He also spoke as the number of attacks carried out by the Taliban continue to rise.

The meeting in Brussels of NATO defense ministers comes amid increased allegations the Islamist insurgent group has committed serious breaches of the February 29, 2020, pact by not reducing Afghan battlefield violence and not cutting ties with international terrorist groups.

A new U.S. Department of Defense report said Wednesday that the Taliban’s links remain intact with al-Qaida.

“The Taliban continues to maintain relations with al-Qaida ... [the terror network’s] members were integrated into Taliban forces and command structures" said Sean O'Donnell, the department's acting inspector general.

And on Monday, the U.N. mission in the country published a new report that points to a sharp increase in targeted killings of Afghan human rights defenders and journalists in recent months.

'Much higher' Taliban violence

The Taliban have denied they are behind the assassination spree, but Afghan officials blame the insurgents, and independent observers also say the group’s denial is not convincing.

“Taliban violence is much higher than historical norms,” General Scott Miller, the head of U.S. forces and the NATO-led noncombat Resolute Support mission, told Reuters on Wednesday. “It just doesn’t create the conditions to move forward in what is hopefully a historic turning point for Afghanistan.”

The increase in violence prompted U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration to review the deal before deciding on whether to bring home the remaining 2,500 American soldiers from the South Asian nation to close what has been the longest military intervention in U.S. history.

Despite that, the Russian state-owned Sputnik News Agency quoted Kabulov as saying, “The Taliban adhere to the agreement almost flawlessly — not a single American soldier has died since the agreement was signed — which cannot be said about the Americans.”

The Russian envoy accused the U.S. military of “repeatedly” carrying out airstrikes against Taliban-held Afghan area positions “under various pretexts.”
Riaz Haq said…
#Russian Envoy Kabulov Visits #Pakistan as Part of Effort to Jumpstart Stalled #AfghanPeaceProcess. He said: “My leadership ..will facilitate the start of inter-Afghan negotiations through consultations within the framework of the enlarged troika" #Biden

The “enlarged troika” is a reference to what Kabulov said is a group that evolved over the last two years, including countries with the most influence on the Afghan peace processes—the United States, China, Iran, Pakistan and Russia.

Russia hopes the meeting of the expanded troika could eventually lead to a larger gathering involving the Afghan government and Taliban along with other regional stakeholders like the Central Asian states and India. Diplomats who back the process say getting all of the regional powers involved in a peace agreement will give it a greater chance of success.

The Moscow format was a Russian initiative to organize regional stakeholders involved in the Afghan peace process. Its second meeting in 2018 brought the Taliban to an international forum for the first time. The U.S. sent representatives to observe.

The current push by Russia has gained momentum after peace talks between the Taliban and an Afghan government-sanctioned team, which started last September, stalled after several months of bickering and little progress.

Although Russia says it is trying to push for a meaningful interaction between the Afghan factions, parts of Kabulov’s interview to Sputnik, especially his suggestion of the need for an interim government set up that includes the Taliban, provoked a strong reaction from Kabul.

Afghanistan’s foreign ministry in a statement Friday said his remarks were against ground realities and counter to the official Russian stance on Afghanistan.

President Ashraf Ghani’s administration has consistently bristled at the idea of an interim government, claiming it has a constitutional mandate to govern for five years.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry has announced that Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar will visit Moscow later this month to meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

“The ministers plan to discuss various aspects of bilateral relations, including trade and economic ties, as well as peaceful settlement in Afghanistan, and the need to counter the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, said at a briefing Thursday in Moscow.

The efforts to jumpstart negotiations between Taliban and Afghan government come at a time when the new administration of President Joe Biden is reviewing its Afghanistan policy.

Under a deal the U.S. signed with the Taliban in February of 2020, all foreign forces were supposed to withdraw from Afghanistan by May of 2021.

While attacks on foreign forces ceased after the deal, however, attacks on Afghan forces spiked, as did targeted killings of individuals, in particular rights activists and journalists.

At a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels that ended Thursday, the alliance refused to commit to a May 1 deadline for withdrawal.

“The problem is, to leave Afghanistan is conditions-based. Our presence in Afghanistan is conditions-based,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters. “[The] Taliban has to meet their commitments.”

Senior U.S. and NATO officials have blamed the change of heart on the Taliban not meeting its commitments, not breaking ties with al-Qaida, not negotiating with the Afghan government in good faith, and raising the level of violence in the country to an unacceptably high level.

“It just doesn’t create the conditions to move forward in what is hopefully a historic turning point for Afghanistan,” top U.S. commander in Afghanistan General Scott Miller told Reuters earlier this week.

Riaz Haq said…
History Flashback: Invasion of Bajaur
In 1960-61, 1000s of Royal Afghan Army's Troops-Militia invaded Bajaour Pakistan in an attempt to annex the region. Pakistan launched a massive counter-operation making Afghan forces surrender and retreat. Short Thread
Riaz Haq said…
India's current National Security Advisor Ajit Doval said in 2013 that the the 325,000 strong Afghan Army and police will deliver. They are well trained and sufficiently motivated. They will defend the Afghan state and Afghanistan's constitution irrespective of what happens at the political level. Doval said he didn't believe 15-20 Pakistani security officials who have told him otherwise. He never believes anything the Pakistanis say.
Riaz Haq said…
#Beijing warns: "Some #US & #Indian #intelligence forces keen to infiltrate into #Pakistan....#China will not only support Pakistan to strike a heavy blow to these #terror forces, but also warn all the external forces to stay away from those terror forces"

Op Ed Gordon Chang

As China makes gains in Afghanistan, the regime is suffering severe setbacks in neighboring Pakistan, where resentment against Chinese interests is widespread.

Two suicide bombings in Pakistan—last week and last month—have taken the lives of 11 Chinese nationals and cast doubt about the viability of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. CPEC, as the $62 billion plan is known, is the centerpiece of Xi Jinping's Belt and Road (BRI), his global infrastructure initiative.

China has blamed both the U.S. and India for complicity in the deadly bombings. Beijing could take action against them, thereby engulfing the world's major powers in conflict.

On Friday, a boy suicide bomber killed two Chinese children traveling in the last car of a convoy on the Gwadar East Bay Expressway, a CPEC project. China is caught in the middle of long-running disputes in Pakistan, especially between the oppressed Balochs and Islamabad, and there is little Beijing can do to ensure the security of its workers and dependents in-country. The Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack.

Gwadar, a Chinese-built port on the Arabian Sea, has been hit by weeks-long protests that shut down the city. Those disturbances have been directed in part against illegal Chinese fishing in nearby waters.

The Gwadar disturbances follow a suicide bombing, on the 14th of last month, targeting the Dasu dam, another CPEC project. The explosion forced a bus into a ravine, killing nine Chinese nationals. The attack is believed to be the most deadly incident against Chinese interests in Pakistan.

"Recently, the security situation in Pakistan has been severe," declared a statement from the Chinese embassy in Islamabad on Friday.

These two incidents, which have followed a series of attacks, have especially alarmed Beijing. "If you've seen the recent developments with CPEC and the Chinese investments in Pakistan, there's been far more anxiety about the security situation there in the last few months than in the last few years," said Andrew Small of the German Marshall Fund to the Hindu, the Chennai-based newspaper. "They're concerned that effectively, Afghanistan could be used as strategic depth for the Pakistani Taliban, and that would have implications for their investments and security interests in the country."

China should be worried. As Kamran Bokhari of the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy tells Newsweek, the fall of the Afghan government has energized the Tehreek-e-Taliban, more commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban. The group "will want to take advantage of what they see as a historic opportunity to replicate in Pakistan the emiratic regime," Bokhari says. To do that, the Pakistani Taliban has been targeting Chinese interests to get Beijing to abandon CPEC projects. As Bokhari points out, China's leaving will weaken Islamabad, and that will help the Pakistani Taliban either topple the current government or grab control of territory along the Afghan border.

Pakistani authorities blamed the July 14 suicide bombing on the Pakistani Taliban, but they say the attacker was "trained in Afghanistan" and "received support from Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies."

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