Afghanistan: Pakistan's Friend or Foe?

The open hostility of successive Afghan governments toward Pakistan begs the following questions: Why do Afghan leaders scapegoat Pakistan for their own failures?  Is Afghanistan a friend or an enemy of Pakistan? 

Scapegoating Pakistan:

Carter Malkasian, former advisor to US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dunford, has recently talked about how Afghan governments have scapegoated Pakistan for their failures. He said: "Let’s take Pakistan, for example. Pakistan is a powerful factor here. But on the battlefield, if 200 Afghan police and army are confronted with 50 Taliban or less than that, and those government forces retreat, that doesn’t have a lot to do with Pakistan. That has to do with something else". 

In another discussion,  Malkasian explained the rapid advance of the Taliban and the imminent collapse of the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani. Here's what he said:

"Over time, aware of the government’s vulnerable position, Afghan leaders turned to an outside source to galvanize the population: Pakistan. Razziq, President Hamid Karzai and later President Ashraf Ghani used Pakistan as an outside threat to unite Afghans behind them. They refused to characterize the Taliban as anything but a creation of Islamabad. Razziq relentlessly claimed to be fighting a foreign Pakistani invasion. Yet Pakistan could never fully out-inspire occupation". 

Afghanistan has been governed by secular Pashtun Nationalists and their Tajik and Uzbek allies for much of the 20th century. These Afghan rulers and their secular Pashtun allies on the eastern side of the border have been hostile toward Pakistan since 1947 when it became independent. Afghanistan's was the lone vote against the admission of the newly independent state of Pakistan to the United Nations. Since then, the anti-Pakistan campaign by Pashtun Nationalists on both sides of the Durand Line has received support from New Delhi.

India's Partition:

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as the Frontier Gandhi, led the secular Pashtun Nationalists' opposition to the creation of Pakistan before 1947. Their efforts  to stay with India failed when they lost a referendum and the majority of the voters of then Frontier Province chose to join Pakistan.

After the humiliating loss in the referendum, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, his son Abdul Wali Khan and their supporters decided to seek an independent nation of Pakhtoonistan.  When Ghaffar Khan died, he was not buried in Pakistan. Instead, he was buried in the Afghan city of Jalalabad according to his will. His son Wali Khan then carried the movement forward.

Pakhtoonistan Movement:

After the creation of Pakistan, Ghaffar Khan and Wali Khan launched Pakhtoonistan movement that sought to create an independent state of Pakhtoonistan with the eventual goal of erasing the Durand Line to unify it with Afghanistan. Slogans such as  "Lar o Bar Yaw Afghan" (Afghans are one on both sides of the Durand Line)  and "Loya Afghanistan" (Grand Afghanistan) signify the aims of this movement. 

The central government in Pakistan has responded by assimilating Pakhtoons in civil and military services from the early 1950’s. By the end of 1960’s, the Pakhtoons were holding many top positions in the civil and military bureaucracy. At the time Pakistan was ruled by Ayub Khan, himself a non-Pashtu speaking Pakhtoon. Pakistan's current Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan is also a Pashtun. 

Both the Afghan and the Indian governments continued to back the Pakhtoonistan movement in the1960s and 70s.

In 1960, then Afghan Prime Minister Daoud Khan sent his troops across the Durand Line into the Bajaur Agency of Pakistan to press the Pashtunistan issue, but the Afghan forces were routed by Pakistani Tribals. During this period, the propaganda war from Afghanistan, carried on by radio, was relentless.

Daoud hosted Pakistani Pakhtoon Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Ajmal Khattak, Juma Khan Sufi. Daoud started training Pakhtun Zalmay and young Balochs and sent them across the border into Pakistan to start a militancy.

In 1961, Pakistan retaliated against Daoud's support to militias in areas along the Durand Line by closing its borders with Afghanistan, causing an economic crisis in Afghanistan.

On July 7, 1973, Daoud Khan toppled his cousin King Zahir Shah in a coup. This triggered a series of bloody coups ending in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. 

A former RAW officer RK Yadav has, in his book "Mission RAW", confirmed that Indian intelligence officers met Khan Wali Abdul Wali Khan in Europe on several occasions to provide support and funding for the Pakhtoonistan movement.

In 1975, then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto ordered Pakistan's intelligence agency to respond to Afghan provocations. Pakistan ISI trained Jalaluddin Haqqani, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as their Afghan proxies.

Soviet Invasion:

The Soviet troops rolled into Afghanistan in December, 1979 to assert control after several coups and counter-coups in the country. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States responded to it by recruiting, training and arming a resistance force referred to as "Mujahideen". India supported the Soviet invasion and occupation in a United Nations vote in January, 1980.

 Soviet troops were defeated and forced by the Mujahideen to withdraw after 9 years of occupation. The Americans also decided to leave the region with Afghanistan in complete chaos as various Mujahideen factions split along ethnic lines fought for control of Kabul.

Pakistan was the most affected as a result of the Afghan war and instability. Millions of Afghan refugees poured across the border in Pakistan. Many were radicalized, trained and armed to fight. The "Kalashnikov Culture" spread across Pakistan causing instability.

The Taliban:

In the1990s, Pakistan supported the Taliban led by Mullah Omar to try to stabilize the situation. The Taliban defeated all other factions and warlords and took control of most of Afghanistan. The only part of Afghanistan that remained beyond their control was the Panjshir valley in northern Afghanistan that was controlled by Tajik warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud.

The Taliban hosted Al Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. The United States accused Al Qaeda of carrying out the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.  When the Taliban refused to hand over Bin Laden to Washington, President George W. Bush ordered the US military to invade Afghanistan to force the Taliban out of power.

US Invasion:

The US invasion of Afghanistan forced the Taliban out of power and drove them and Al Qaeda fighters across the border into Pakistan. Pakistani military arrested most of the Al Qaeda leadership and many of the Al Qaeda fighters and handed them over to the United States. Bin Laden was found and killed by the Americans in a raid in Abbotabad, Pakistan in 2011.

Indian intelligence agency RAW has established its presence in Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan since the US invasion and the installation of a Kabul government that includes pro-India members of the Tajik dominated Northern Alliance.

India's Covert War Against Pakistan:

Fomer US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said back in 2011 that "India has always used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan.  India has over the years been financing problems in Pakistan". Secretary Hagel was speaking at Cameron University in Oklahoma. Direct and circumstantial evidence of India using Afghanistan to attack Pakistan has grown to the point that even Indian analysts and media are beginning to acknowledge it:

1. Bharat Karnad, a professor of national security studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, recently acknowledged India's use of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist group against Pakistan in an Op Ed he wrote for Hindustan Times.

2. Indian journalist Praveen Swami said in a piece published in "Frontline": "Since 2013, India has secretly built up a covert action program against Pakistan."

3. India's former RAW officers, including one ex chief, have blamed Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested by Pakistan in 2016, for getting caught in Pakistan as a "result of unprofessionalism", according to a report in India's "The Quint" owned and operated by a joint venture of Bloomberg News and Quintillion Media. The report that appeared briefly on The Quint website has since been removed, apparently under pressure from the Indian government.

4. A story by Indian journalist Karan Thapar pointed out several flaws in the Indian narrative claiming that Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested in Pakistan while engaging in India's covert war in Balochistan, was an innocent Indian businessman kidnapped from Chabahar by Pakistani agents. Writing for the Indian Express, Thapar debunked the entire official story from New Delhi.

ISI Bogeyman:

British Afghan war veteran Major Robert Gallimore says he saw no presence of Pakistan's intelligence service ISI in Afghanistan. The Afghan Army saw the " imagined nefarious hand" and "bogeyman" of Pakistan everywhere but he never saw it. He "saw not one piece of evidence" of it. It was all in their minds.

During his three tours of duty in Afghanistan, he could hear all the radio conversations going on but never heard any Pakistani accent. He did, however, see "buckets and buckets of money" and rising Indian influence in Afghan Army that blamed Pakistan for all their problems. Pakistan is their bogeyman.

The Afghan Army says they'll feel good when they can "invade Pakistan". They do not blame the British but the Pakistanis for the Durand Line that they do not recognize.

Major Gallimore sees the emergence of an India-Pakistan 21st century "Great Game" similar to its British-Russian predecessor. Many Afghans support creation of Pashtunistan by annexing northern part of Pakistan into Afghanistan. They blame Pakistan for the Durand Line, not the British or their own leaders who agreed to it. As a result, Maj Gallimore warns that Afghanistan has become much more volatile and dangerous than ever before.


Recent scapegoating of Pakistan by the Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul has been criticized by Carter Malkasian, former advisor of US General Dunford.  Malkasian has said, "...on the battlefield, if 200 Afghan police and army are confronted with 50 Taliban or less than that, and those government forces retreat, that doesn’t have a lot to do with Pakistan. That has to do with something else".  The animosity of secular Pashtun Nationalists and their Tajik and Uzbek allies against Pakistan is not new. It didn't start with Pakistan's support of the Taliban in the 1990s. Their hostility against Pakistan dates back to the creation of Pakistan.  Afghanistan's was the lone vote against the admission of the newly independent state of Pakistan to the United Nations in 1947. Since then, the anti-Pakistan campaign by Pashtun Nationalists on both sides of the Durand Line has received support from New Delhi. A former RAW officer RK Yadav has, in his book "Mission RAW", confirmed that Indian intelligence officers met Khan Wali Abdul Wali Khan in Europe on several occasions to provide support and funding for the Pakhtoonistan movement.

Here is a video discussion of spillover of Afghan instability into Pakistan:



Riaz Haq said…
Regional powers #Russia, #China, #Iran, #Pakistan Extend Hands to #Taliban Now in Control of #Afghanistan. All 4 neighbors continue to maintain embassies in #Kabul

s the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan shakes the international community's commitment to the country, regional powers Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan continue to maintain their embassies in Kabul while expressing their willingness to work with its new leaders.

Just as the Taliban was getting settled in the capital, Russian ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov met with the group on Tuesday to discuss embassy security. Following his talks, he spoke highly of a group he said was conducting itself "in a responsible and civilized manner" since its largely peaceful capture of Kabul.

"They want to be sure there will be no provocations, to avoid shooting," Zhirnov said in an interview with the Rossiya-24 outlet. "Because practically everyone possesses weapons, even teenagers. It looks like they are afraid that should anything happen not through their fault it may cast a shadow on them as masters of the situation. They don't conceal it."

Speaking in Kaliningrad, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also saw "a positive signal" from the Taliban, specifically in the infamously hardline group's public commitments to respecting the views of others.

"We are convinced and have known that for quite a long time that only, as they say now, an inclusive dialogue involving all key forces can serve as a step towards normalization of the situation in Afghanistan," Lavrov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

Russia's turn toward accepting the Taliban's legitimacy comes after its own difficult history in Afghanistan. In 1979, the Soviet Union entered into a decade-long war in hopes of saving a Kabul-based communist administration from a mujahideen resistance that was backed the U.S. and regional powers including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It was forced to withdraw in defeat a decade later, paving the way for the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s.

The group took control of most of the country and effectively held Afghanistan until 2001, when the 9/11 attacks conducted by Taliban ally Al-Qaeda drew a massive U.S.-led intervention. Moscow initially supported the Western effort in Afghanistan, but came to criticize its handling over the course of two decades.

With the Taliban now back in control of Kabul, Lavrov told reporters that Moscow was "not rushing a recognition" of an Afghan government led by the a group that Russia still considers a terrorist organization. The decision mirrors the hesitation of other nations including Russia's strategic partner, China, which borders Afghanistan directly.

"Just yesterday I spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi," Lavrov added. "Our positions are in line."

Beijing is seeking to portray an open mind as the new dynamic unfolds.

"China has all along maintained contact and communication with the Afghan Taliban on the basis of fully respecting Afghanistan's sovereignty and the will of all factions in the country, and played a constructive role in promoting the political settlement of the Afghan issue," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday.

There was an important caveat, however.
Riaz Haq said…
#Taliban says no one will use #Afghan territory to launch attacks against anybody or any country. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid asserted that #WomensRights will be protected within Islamic law. #China #Pakistan #Iran #Russia #US via @AJEnglish

The Taliban held its first official news conference in Kabul since the shock seizure of the city, declaring on Tuesday it wished for peaceful relations with other countries.

“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” the movement’s main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said.

The spokesman asserted that the rights of women will be protected within the framework of Islam.

The group previously declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join its government, trying to calm nerves across a tense capital city that only the day before saw chaos as thousands mobbed the city’s international airport in a desperate attempt to flee.

Evacuation flights from Afghanistan resumed as a Western security official told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the Kabul airport’s tarmac and runway – which troops from the United States control – were now clear of crowds.

The official said military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan have started taking off.

At least seven people died in Monday’s chaos, including several people who clung to the sides of a jet as it took off.

The Taliban has meanwhile declared the war in Afghanistan over and a senior leader said the group would wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.

China said it was ready for “friendly relations” with the Taliban, while Russia and Iran also made diplomatic overtures.
Riaz Haq said…
#Afghan #Taliban visit #Hazara Neighborhood in #Kabul, Attend #Shia Majlis
Riaz Haq said…
#Taliban Having Fun in #Kabul, #Afghanistan: Surreal Footage Appears to Show #Afghan Taliban Driving Bumper Cars and Lifting Weights. In one clip, a group of men are trying out exercise equipment as one person holds a rocket launcher. via @viceSince the Taliban took control in Kabul on Sunday, the world has witnessed eerie and horrific scenes from the Afghan capital: people scrambling to secure passports, heartbreaking footage of Afghans clinging to flying planes (and later falling to their deaths), and pictures of women being covered up from public view.

But amid the chaos and uncertainty that has gripped the war-torn nation as it again faces life under Taliban rule, another set of videos shows members of the fundamentalist group engaging in almost childlike playfulness at local theme park rides and in a workout facility.

In one viral clip emerging in recent days, two men shared a ride in a bumper car while holding onto what appear to be rifles. Outside the rink, people looked on.Meanwhile, another video shows bearded men perched on small painted ponies on a merry-go-round.

Yet another video showed armed men using the gym. In the recording, a man pedals backwards fiercely on an elliptical machine while another is seen holding what appears to be a rocket launcher.

Riaz Haq said…
#Biden administration freezes ($9.4 billion) #Afghan reserves, depriving #Taliban of cash. “Any Central Bank assets the Afghan government have in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban". #Afghanistan #economy

The Biden administration on Sunday froze Afghan government reserves held in U.S. bank accounts, blocking the Taliban from accessing billions of dollars held in U.S. institutions, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The decision was made by Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and officials in the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the people said. The State Department was also involved in discussions over the weekend, with officials in the White House monitoring the developments. An administration official said in a statement, “Any Central Bank assets the Afghan government have in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban.” The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss government policy not yet made public.

Cutting off access to U.S.-based reserves represents among the first in what are expected to be several crucial decisions facing the Biden administration about the economic fate of that nation following the Taliban takeover. Afghanistan is already one of the poorest countries in the world and is highly dependent on American aid that is now in jeopardy. The Biden administration is also likely to face hard choices over how to manage existing sanctions on the Taliban, which may make it difficult to deliver international humanitarian assistance to a population facing ruin, experts say.

Asked Tuesday what leverage the United States would have over the Taliban going forward, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that “there are obviously issues related to sanctions” but declined to elaborate. He also said the administration would first communicate directly with the Taliban.

President Biden in his speech Monday appeared to commit to continuing to give aid to Afghanistan, saying: “We will continue to support the Afghan people. We will lead with our diplomacy, our international influence and our humanitarian aid.”

The Afghanistan central bank held $9.4 billion in reserve assets as of April, according to the International Monetary Fund. That amounts to roughly one-third of the country’s annual economic output. The vast majority of those reserves are not currently held in Afghanistan, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Among those, billions of dollars are kept in the United States, although the precise amount is unclear.

Spokespeople for the White House and Treasury Department declined to comment on the process for blocking the funds or the fate of U.S. economic assistance to Afghanistan. A spokeswoman for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where much of the money is presumed to be held, also declined to comment.

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan has expanded its #economy at 4% CAGR & multiplied its #exports 10X in last 20 years. It's a global player in apparel/textiles, & lately exported its first #smartphones. #Taliban win next door could be a godsend or a nightmare via @BarronsOnline

The Taliban’s triumph is also a nightmare of sorts, making Pakistan an easy scapegoat for global outrage at the repression its fundamentalist clients are expected to impose. “Pakistan is very vulnerable to sanctions,” Nooruddin says. “All the capital they need to develop could get frozen pretty quickly.”

A key barometer to watch will be the Financial Action Task Force, the global anti-money laundering body. FATF put Pakistan on its “grey list” in 2018, finding “serious deficiencies” in the country’s monitoring regime. The Global X MSCI Pakistan exchange-traded fund (ticker: PAK) has lost half its value since then. Post-mortem scrutiny into Islamabad’s Taliban financing may quash chances of removing this blight. It could also affect further tranches of a $6 billion aid package Pakistan signed two years ago with the International Monetary Fund.

Imram Khan, the Oxford-educated prime minister who came to power two months after Pakistan’s grey listing, has underwhelmed as a reformist outsider. “There hasn’t been a huge amount of change,” says Alison Graham, chief investment officer for frontier-markets specialist Voltan Capital Management. “Khan seems to be cut from the same cloth as the surrounding political environment.”

She is still eyeing Pakistani investments on valuation grounds. “The trajectory of the market has been straight down for reasons I don’t quite understand,” she says. “Pakistan’s million political problems don’t affect its economic situation that much.”

Maurits Pot, chief investment officer at Dawn Global, chose Pakistan as one of five countries in his recently launched Asian Growth Cubs ETF (CUBS). Companies that leverage the nation’s youth and education levels, like software provider Systems (SYS.Pakistan), will prosper whatever geopolitics may bring, he argues. “It’s a very vibrant but cheap capital market,” he says.

Western ostracism of Pakistan should reach a limit, too. China, which has marked a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as one of the flagship projects in its One Belt One Road master plan, will be happy to take up slack as the West retreats. More importantly, Islamic revolution returning to underdeveloped Afghanistan may be a tragedy; Islamic revolution spreading to 225 million-strong, nuclear armed Pakistan would be a catastrophe. “The last thing the U.S. wants is two failed states next to each other,” Pot observes.

Pakistan had little choice but to become embroiled in Afghan politics, the Atlantic Council’s Nooruddin says. It is home to 25 million Pashtuns, the ethnic group that dominates the Taliban (and the just-ousted Afghan government), and needs to handle their loyalties delicately. “The Taliban have been a hassle for Pakistan to manage, and they’ve handled it reasonably well,” Graham adds.

That subtlety will quickly be lost, though, as the Taliban consolidates their reconquest of their homeland with cameras rolling. Pakistan won’t have much time to celebrate its good luck.
Riaz Haq said…
With #Taliban Dominance, #India's #Chabahar Port Could Become a Dead Investment. #Americans have partnered with #Uzbekistan, #Afghanistan and #Pakistan to make a new north-south connectivity corridor bypassing #Iran. #CPEC #Gwadar via @thewire_in

The spectre of the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government of Afghanistan and the takeover by the anarchic, ragtag group of Taliban, even while the US has left the country to its miserable fate, is increasingly driving a nail in many bilateral and multilateral arrangements between Kabul and the world.

Undoubtedly, the most hurt would be India and its much vaunted project of the Chabahar Port in Iran’s east, which was meant to allow New Delhi an opportunity to side-step Pakistan and take the land route to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Now Chabahar, from Iran and India’s perspective, seems like a dead investment — a dream gone sour.

“Indians just took too much time to complete the project. Now, changed circumstances and alternative connectivity routes are being conjured up by other countries to make Chabahar irrelevant,” claims an Iranian source.

He may be right.

Much of the blame for the slow pace at which the Chabahar project progressed should rest on India and its over-cautious attitude. The current government in Delhi did not want to do anything to antagonise the US government after it had imposed sanctions on Iran.

Now, the Americans have partnered with Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan to make a new connectivity corridor.

So where does it leave India?

Ironically, India’s Chabahar engagement, though old, gained momentum after former US president Barack Obama ended sanctions against Iran and signed the nuclear deal. His successor, Donald Trump, had other ideas. He, rather unceremoniously, canceled the deal and clamped claustrophobic sanctions on Iran, but gave freedom to India to carry on with the project as it benefited Afghanistan.

The Indian government, through the periodic visits of its external affairs minister, S. Jaishankar, and other officials, has routinely expressed its commitment to complete the project. However, the Iranians have a different story to tell.

And it is not a happy story with a happy ending.


Not only did India baulk at its promise to provide a line of credit in 2018 to build the railway route from Chabahar to Zahedan, the Indian company that is supposed to build and manage port Shahid Behesti, India Port Global, is a leaderless entity that is in a state of drift.

Iranian sources allege that there is a conscious attempt by China, which is furiously building its Gwadar project in the Sea of Oman, and, now, the US, to puncture Chabahar. Or else, what was the reason that the US should announce a ‘connectivity project’ in Tashkent with Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan that does not include Iran or India?

Jennifer Murtazashivilli from the Center of Governance, University of Pittsburg, was quoted by the Voice of America arguing: “Given the difficult relations between the US and Iran, it would be difficult to secure funding for that southward route, so it is more politically feasible to connect Uzbekistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan, than to go through Iran right now.”

Riaz Haq said…
How #America Failed in #Afghanistan
Steve Coll: “You can’t just create an army of 300,000. I remember talking to the Pakistani generals about this…And they all said, ‘You just can’t do that. It won’t work.’ They turned out to be right.” #Pakistan #Kabul

On Sunday, as the Taliban entered Kabul—the last remaining major Afghan city not under the group’s control—the President of the country, Ashraf Ghani, fled to Tajikistan, making clear that the U.S.-backed Afghan government had collapsed. Five months ago, in April, President Joe Biden announced that all U.S. and nato troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Critics have accused the Administration of conducting a rushed, poorly planned, and chaotic withdrawal since then. On Thursday, the U.S. government announced that it would be sending in marines and soldiers to help evacuate embassy personnel. But the speed of the Taliban advance has stunned American officials and left desperate Afghans trying to flee the country. Responding to criticism about his plan, Biden has sought to shift blame to the Afghan government and its people, saying, “They have got to fight for themselves.”

I spoke by phone with my colleague, the New Yorker staff writer Steve Coll, about the situation in Afghanistan. The dean of Columbia Journalism School, Coll is the author of “Ghost Wars” and “Directorate S,” which together chronicle much of the history of the past several decades in Afghanistan and Pakistan.........

Your books on the region suggest that the Taliban may not have initially come to power, nor survived this long, had it not been for the aid and comfort of the Pakistani security apparatus—its military and intelligence services. How is Pakistan feeling about what’s happening now? I sense maybe there’s a tiny bit more anxiety than usual about what this might mean for Pakistan.


It seems likely that it is partially a case of watching what you wish for. I am sure they did not forecast the speed with which events are unfolding this summer, and they may also have expected that the role of negotiations and the timetable by which political change would occur in Afghanistan would allow them to build a platform for greater international legitimacy and credibility for a potential Taliban government. One of the reasons that I would be anxious if I were them is that this is happening in a way that is already inducing governments such as Germany’s—not usually first out of the box on these things—to say that they won’t provide any aid to a government that imposes Sharia against the will of its people.

Zalmay Khalilzad, Biden’s negotiator, is trying to tell the Taliban that they won’t be recognized by anyone if they take power this way. Well, we’ll see. In the nineteen-nineties, there were only three governments in the world that recognized the Taliban: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. And this time around, too, Pakistan will be one of them, I expect. But things are different. The Saudis and the Emiratis have a new geopolitical outlook. But China is not the same country that it was in the nineties. How will China support Pakistan in trying to manage a second Taliban regime, especially one that may attract sanctions or other kinds of pressure from the United States and its allies? It isn’t the nineties, but Pakistan is still in the same awkward place that it was last time around. And to the extent that the Taliban return to a kind of internationalism of their interpretation of Islam and welcome Al Qaeda types or other forms of radicals, allow the Islamic State to incubate on Afghan soil, or don’t have the interest or the capacity to do something about it, you can be sure that, as it did the last time, all of that will blow back on Pakistan in one way or another, be that in the form of international pressure or instability.
Riaz Haq said…
(British) Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has backed the UK's armed forces chief over comments he made to Sky News suggesting the Taliban has "changed" since it was last in power 20 years ago.

General Sir Nick Carter also called the insurgents "a group of country boys who live by a code of honour" and said that they wanted an "inclusive" country.

He also told the BBC it "may well be a Taliban that is more reasonable, less repressive and, if you look at the way it is governing Kabul at the moment, there are some indications that it is more reasonable".

His remarks have since been criticised as "absurd" and "unpalatable".

But Mr Wallace told Kay Burley on Sky News: "He also said that he will see if they change. We are where we are, the Taliban are running the country."

Asked whether he was defending Sir Nick, Mr Wallace said: "Of course I am defending him. Nick Carter knows more than I will ever know about Afghanistan and the Taliban and more than most people. He is a deeply experienced general.
Riaz Haq said…
With #Afghan collapse & #Taliban's rise to power in #Afghanistan, #Pakistan, #China and #Russia have gained broad influence in #security matters in #CentralAsia region at the expense of the #US and #India. #BRI #CPEC #Infrastructure #connectivity

In the long post-Soviet jostling for power and influence in Central Asia sometimes called the new Great Game, an ever more dominant player has emerged from the chaos and confusion of Afghanistan: Russia, at least in security affairs.

“I wouldn’t say a wounded animal,” the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said on Tuesday of the withdrawal of NATO and the U.S. forces from Afghanistan. “But this is a group of countries that in a very painful and difficult way is giving up on the positions in the world they were used to for many decades.”

The strengthening of Russia’s position in Central Asian security matters is part of a broader shift brought about by the Taliban’s rise to power. Russia, China and Pakistan all stand to gain influence in regional affairs with the West’s withdrawal, while the United States and India stand to lose.

“I’m thinking of this as a post-Western or post-U.S. space now,” said Alexander Cooley, director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, and an authority on Central Asia. “It’s a region transforming itself without the United States.”

And largely to Russia’s benefit.

For Moscow, the chaotic American withdrawal, while reminiscent of Russia’s humiliating 1989 retreat from Afghanistan after its disastrous 10-year intervention, was a propaganda victory on a global scale.

From Latin America to Eastern Europe, Russia has fought for influence by insisting that the United States cannot be trusted. Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, warned that America’s friends in Ukraine could soon also be disappointed.

“The country is headed toward collapse, and the White House at a certain moment won’t even remember about its supporters in Kyiv,” Mr. Patrushev said in an interview published on Thursday.

The rapid fall of President Ashraf Ghani’s government was also a vindication of Russia’s yearslong strategy of building a diplomatic relationship with the Taliban. As Western diplomats scrambled to flee Kabul this week, Russian officials stayed put, with the Taliban guaranteeing the security of the Russian Embassy.

“They made a good impression on us,” Russia’s ambassador in Kabul, Dmitri Zhirnov, said of his embassy’s new Taliban guards on Russian state television this week. “They’re decent guys, well armed.”

At Russia’s most recent round of talks with the Taliban in Moscow, in July, the group pledged that its military gains would not be a threat to Russia or its interests. Russia hosted the Taliban for multiple rounds of talks even though the group is officially classified as a banned terrorist organization with Russia, making any association with it a potential crime.

“It’s pragmatism — and cynicism and double-think,” said Arkady Dubnov, a Russian expert on Central Asia, describing the Russian government’s strategy of building ties with the Taliban. “People are locked up in Russia for this kind of cooperation with a terrorist organization.”

Russia’s military exercises on the border represented another side of its strategy, a show of force to demonstrate its willingness to punish the Taliban if they should step out of line. “You can talk to the Taliban but you also need to show them a fist,” said Daniel Kiselyov, editor of Fergana, a Russian-language outlet focused on Central Asia.

Beyond Afghanistan, Russia still faces stiff competition from China’s debt and infrastructure diplomacy in Central Asia, a central thoroughfare of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative. And the American oil companies Chevron and Exxon have been pumping crude in Kazakhstan for years. On Tuesday, China and Tajikistan announced a joint border-patrol exercise.

Riaz Haq said…
The Taliban Have Claimed Afghanistan’s Real Economic Prize (vast informal economy)

The state’s bankruptcy has tempted some Western donors into thinking that financial pressure — in the form of threats to withhold humanitarian and development funding — could be brought to bear on the new rulers of Afghanistan. Germany already warned it would cut off financial support to the country if the Taliban “introduce Shariah law.”


One reason foreign donors inflate their own importance in Afghanistan is that they do not understand the informal economy, and the vast amounts of hidden money in the war zone. Trafficking in opium, hashish, methamphetamines and other narcotics is not the biggest kind of trade that happens off the books: The real money comes from the illegal movement of ordinary goods, like fuel and consumer imports. In size and sum, the informal economy dwarfs international aid.

For example, our study of the border province of Nimruz, published this month by the Overseas Development Institute, estimated that informal taxation — the collection of fees by armed personnel to allow safe passage of goods — raised about $235 million annually for the Taliban and pro-government figures. By contrast, the province received less than $20 million a year in foreign aid.

A southern province in the heartland of Taliban supporters, Nimruz is the sort of place that might serve as a basis for Taliban thinking about how the economy works. This summer, they set about taking it over. In June, they captured Ghorghory, the administrative center of Khashrud District, followed by the town of Delaram, on the main highway, in July. These two towns alone could be worth $18.6 million a year for the Taliban if they maintain the previous systems of informal taxation, including $5.4 million from the fuel trade and $13 million from transit goods.

A bigger prize was the customs house in Zaranj, a city bordering Iran and the first provincial capital to fall during the Taliban’s August offensive. Though the city officially provided the government with $43.2 million in annual duties — with an additional $50 million in direct taxes in 2020 — there was, we found, a significant amount of undeclared trade, particularly of fuel, taking the true total revenues from the border crossing to at least $176 million a year.

The Taliban’s advance forced a dilemma on neighboring countries: They could either continue to trade, giving the Taliban more power and legitimacy, or deny themselves trade revenues and accept the financial pain. Though they have sometimes opted for the latter, it’s unclear — as pressure mounts to officially recognize the Taliban government — how much longer that will last.

Take Iran, for example. We estimated that the Taliban earned $84 million last year by taxing Afghans who trade with Iran — and that was before the insurgents captured all three of Afghanistan’s major border crossings with Iran. Tehran, unwilling to legitimize the Taliban, halted all trade with Afghanistan in early August. But the economic imperative to reopen to commercial traffic is strong. More than $2 billion in trade passed through those crossings last year, according to official figures, and our research suggests that the actual numbers, once informal trade is included, could be twice as high. Early reports suggest the border crossings are open again, though trade remains slow and disrupted.


But the windfalls from cross-border commerce — a single border crossing to Pakistan, captured in July, brings in tens of millions of dollars a year in illegal revenues — are making the Taliban, now ruling the Afghan state, into major players in South Asia’s regional trade. That means, crucially, that the usual methods by which recalcitrant regimes are subjected to international pressure — sanctions, isolation — are less applicable to today’s Afghanistan.
Riaz Haq said…
#Trump calls ex #Afghan President Ghani "total crook," says "he got away with murder". "I wanted [the Taliban] to get a deal done with the Afghan government," Trump continued. "Now, I never had a lot of confidence, frankly, in Ghani." #US #Taliban

Trump made his comments during a Tuesday night interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. Hannity asked Trump about his dealings with Taliban leaders and the Afghan government as Trump prepared to withdraw U.S. military troops from the region.

First, Trump said that he negotiated with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund, the Taliban's co-founder. Trump said he told the Taliban leader that the U.S. troop withdrawal was a "conditions-based agreement." If the Taliban harmed any Americans or allies, Trump said, the U.S. would retaliate by bombing the leader's home village as well as other parts the country.

"I wanted [the Taliban] to get a deal done with the Afghan government," Trump continued. "Now, I never had a lot of confidence, frankly, in Ghani. I said that openly and plainly I thought he was a total crook."

Trump then said that Ghani "spent all his time wining and dining our senators." He added, "The senators were in his pocket. That was one of the problems that we had. But I never liked him... He got away with murder in many, many different ways."

Trump didn't explain in what ways Ghani "got away with murder."

Trump also said that he suspected that Ghani fled with cash when he secretly left Afghanistan last Sunday. Trump's suspicion was based on Ghani's "lifestyle", "his houses" and "where he lives," Trump said.

Trump's claim about Ghani escaping with money may have originated from Russia's embassy in Kabul. The embassy reported that Ghani and his entourage departed with "four cars were full of money," the Russian news agency RIA reported. The Russian government has since offered its "political support" to the country's new Taliban rulers, the Taliban said.

Ghani is currently hiding in an unknown location. He fled his country as the Taliban's Islamic extremist military forces overtook the capital city of Kabul. Ghani later said that he departed in order to avoid more violence and bloodshed by those who might've defended his rule.

However, Saad Mohseni, the owner of one of Afghanistan's most popular television stations, told The New York Times that Ghani will be remembered as a traitor by his countrymen.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan currently hosts 1.438 million #Afghan refugees, the largest number in the world. #US with all its massive 24X7 cable coverage of the events in #Afghanistan hosts only 2,000 Afghan refugees.
Riaz Haq said…
What the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan means for India and Pakistan | The Economist

Besides losing all its investment in a secular, democratic Afghanistan, India has also lost strategic leverage. There were never Indian troops in Afghanistan, but its aid projects and four consulates certainly spooked the generals running the show in Pakistan. India’s close ties with the Afghan government gave its own security establishment a whiff of “over-the-horizon” influence that felt appropriate to an emerging superpower. When Pakistan-backed Islamists mounted terrorist attacks on India and stirred violence in its restive region of Kashmir, India could threaten to use its Afghan assets to stir trouble in Pakistan’s restive region of Balochistan. Now, with Mr Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government having stirred its own troubles in Kashmir, by stripping the region of autonomy in 2019, it must face the prospect of a new generation of Muslim Kashmiris inspired by the Taliban’s fanaticism.

Perhaps because its spies read the writing on the wall, or perhaps because its teachers and engineers increasingly risked being kidnapped, India had wound down its Afghan presence in recent years. Yet it was only in June that Indian envoys took the first tentative steps to engage with the Taliban. The reckoning with what an abrupt American departure from its backyard means for India has also been slow to settle. The Times of India, the country’s biggest-circulation English daily, voiced one common perception in a sour editorial on August 16th: “At a time when India has strategically hitched its wagon to the us, the Afghan situation should make New Delhi think twice about putting all its eggs in Washington’s basket.”
This is a conclusion that Pakistan, as well as its “all-weather friend” China, will be happy for India to draw. With a stagnant economy and stymied politics, India’s nuclear-armed neighbour has not had much to cheer about of late. So it is that even if urban Pakistanis have little affinity with the Taliban, many are crowing at the Islamists’ success. Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, went so far as to proclaim that Afghans had “broken the chains of slavery” with the West.
Mr Durrani says that Pakistan itself deserves no credit for the Taliban victory, except for having resisted pressure from America and its allies to crack down on the group. He is too modest. The original Taliban, or “students”, of the 1990s, were students in Pakistani madrassas. Certainly, after America’s invasion in 2001, the Taliban would never have survived their years in the wilderness without the haven provided by Pakistan.
That Pakistan has stood by the Taliban is especially striking, considering that an ideological affiliate based in Afghanistan, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (ttp), has terrorised Pakistan itself, for example by slaughtering more than 145 children and adults at an army-run school in 2014. Questioned about reports that the Taliban have released ttp leaders from the Afghan prisons, the Pakistani interior minister says airily that he hopes for an agreement between the two countries not to allow their soil to be used to attack the other. Luckily for Pakistan’s generals they are rarely held accountable for any violent “blowback” from the isi’s nastier associates. Aside from the occasional diversion of a television interview, Mr Durrani can continue to enjoy his retirement in peace.
Riaz Haq said…
#Afghan #Taliban Commission Looking Into #Pakistan’s Concerns: “TTP leaders are being warned to settle their problems with Pakistan and return to the country along with their families in exchange for a possible amnesty by the Pakistani government” #TTP

A high-powered commission set up by Afghanistan’s Taliban has been working to press anti-Pakistan militants to stop violence against the neighboring country and return to their homes across the border with their families, VOA has learned from highly-placed sources.

Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada set up the three-member commission recently to look into Islamabad’s complaints that the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, is using Afghan soil to plot cross-border terrorist attacks, the sources said.

“TTP leaders are being warned (by the Afghan Taliban Commission) to settle their problems with Pakistan and return to the country along with their families in exchange for a possible amnesty by the Pakistani government,” said the sources in Islamabad.

The sources privy to the matter revealed the details on condition of anonymity, citing the “sensitive nature” of the matter and for not being authorized to speak to media.

Pakistan and Afghan Taliban officials have not publicly commented on the development.

On Friday, Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said Islamabad intends to raise the TTP-related concerns with Kabul.

“We have been taking up the issue of use of Afghan soil by the TTP for terrorist activities in Pakistan with the previous Afghan government and we will continue raising the issue with the future Afghan government as well to ensure that TTP is not provided any space in Afghanistan to operate against Pakistan,” Chaudhri told his weekly news conference.

The sources, while speaking to VOA, ruled out the possibility of Pakistan accepting any TTP demands, insisting the amnesty would be offered in line with the country’s constitution and law of the land, that require the militants to surrender their firearms in order to protect Pakistan’s years of counterterrorism gains.

The United States and the United Nations have also listed the TTP as a global terrorist organization.

The February 2020 deal reached between the Taliban and the United States in Doha, which paved the way for foreign troops to leave Afghanistan, binds the Islamist group to prevent regional as well as transnational terrorist groups from using Afghan soil to threaten global security.

"This concern is legitimate, and our policy is clear that we will not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against any neighboring country, including Pakistan. So they should not have any concern,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told VOA, without sharing further details.

Shaheen said be it TTP or any other terrorist group they “will have no place in our country and that’s a clear message to all.”

The Taliban are in desperate need of support from regional and international countries now that they are in control of Afghanistan to address governance as well as critical economic challenges facing the country, one of the poorest in the world.

Analysts say it would be extremely difficult for the Taliban to disregard reservations of all the neighboring countries, including Pakistan, on the presence of terrorists which have targets across the Afghan border.

“If they (the Afghan Taliban) fail to deliver on their counterterrorism commitments, not only Pakistan but China, Russia, Iran and Central Asian countries would all be upset because they also complain that fugitive militants sheltering on Afghan soil threaten their national interests,” the Pakistani sources stressed.

“Can they survive if they turn their guns against us and support TTP? This is not possible. Our trade routes are a lifeline for them, for landlocked Afghanistan,” the sources added.
Riaz Haq said…
Afghanistan: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace backs UK armed forces chief General Sir Nick Carter over 'Taliban has changed' remarks

The chief of the defence staff had told Sky News that the Taliban wants an 'inclusive' country and is 'a group of country boys that live by a code of honour',

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has backed the UK's armed forces chief over comments he made to Sky News suggesting the Taliban has "changed" since it was last in power 20 years ago.

General Sir Nick Carter also called the insurgents "a group of country boys who live by a code of honour" and said that they wanted an "inclusive" country.

Sir Nick, chief of the defence staff, said on Wednesday that the world should be patient and "hold its nerve" to see what Afghanistan's future holds under a Taliban-led government.

He also told the BBC it "may well be a Taliban that is more reasonable, less repressive and, if you look at the way it is governing Kabul at the moment, there are some indications that it is more reasonable".

His remarks have since been criticised as "absurd" and "unpalatable".

But Mr Wallace told Kay Burley on Sky News: "He also said that he will see if they change. We are where we are, the Taliban are running the country."

Asked whether he was defending Sir Nick, Mr Wallace said: "Of course I am defending him. Nick Carter knows more than I will ever know about Afghanistan and the Taliban and more than most people. He is a deeply experienced general.

"When he says things, we should listen and we should value it. He is my adviser, he is the prime minister's adviser, and he is absolutely right in some of his observations".

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said the general's remarks were a "very difficult and unpalatable message", particularly for women and girls in Afghanistan.

The comments have also come in for heavy criticism elsewhere.

Sky's chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay told Burley: "To say that we've been able to gauge what the Taliban is actually like nowadays is frankly absurd."

Labour MP Dan Jarvis, who also served in the British armed forces in Afghanistan, said: "I'm with Stuart on this one. This is a critical moment and it's very early days...[the Taliban] will be judged not by their words but by their actions."

Also speaking to Burley, political activist Hassina Syed - who managed to get an RAF flight to the UK to escape the country - said: "Actions speak louder than words...this is not the time [to know what will happen] in the future...we have to wait and see."

But former British army officer Simon Conway, whose involvement with the Halo Trust charity has included working with former Taliban fighters, suggested the Taliban may have changed in some ways.

He told Sky News: "It is possible to deal with honourable people. I can't speak for everyone, but there are elements within the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan that it's possible to reason with.

"They will be judged by their actions."
Riaz Haq said…
An Indian's view of events in Afghanistan

A strategic assessment from India: Kabul’s chaos makes Pakistan look more dangerous
New Atlanticist by Vappala Balachandran

India invested heavily in a peaceful Afghanistan. “No part of Afghanistan today is untouched by the four hundred-plus projects that India has undertaken in all thirty-four of Afghanistan’s provinces,” said Jaishankar.

Over twenty years, India spent more than three billion US dollars on projects—from roads, dams, and electricity-transmission capacity to schools and hospitals—in Afghanistan, the Indian Express reports.

India showed up too. The highway from Zaranj to Delaram was inaugurated by President Hamid Karzai and India’s then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in January 2009. (The only “contribution” the Taliban made was by killing six Indian workers and 129 Afghans in terrorist attacks while they worked on the highway project.) Afghanistan’s new parliament building, built by India, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015.

These links are part of an Indo-Afghan relationship going back to the third century BCE, when Greeks ceded most of what is now Afghanistan to the Mauryan Empire. Students from Central Asia and Afghanistan studied at the university of ancient Taxila. Philologists say that Pashto, the national language of Afghanistan, is derived from Sanskrit and influenced by Persian. Jawaharlal Nehru, in The Discovery of India, noted that twelfth-century Afghan invaders settled down by marrying Hindu women.

Cultural relations continued after the partition of India in 1947, when Pakistan absorbed the Pashto-speaking northwest areas, though big Pashto-speaking enclaves persist in various Indian states.

There were close bonds between Afghans and Indian Congress party leaders, as highlighted in Canadian filmmaker Teri McLuhan’s 2008 documentary, Frontier Gandhi, and in Non-violent Soldier of Islam, the 1984 book by Eknath Easwaran on the life of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. “Badshah Khan,” as he was fondly called by his followers, was a freedom fighter from undivided India, born in Utamzai, Pakistan, but buried in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. He was close to Mahatma Gandhi, chose Gandhian principles of peaceful struggle, and advocated for women’s rights even in a tribal society.

Ghaffar Khan, who is not as widely remembered as Gandhi, had a different interpretation for jihad: “It is the weapon of the Prophet, but you are not aware of it. That weapon is called patience and righteousness.”

As has been the case for millennia, India’s ambitions in Afghanistan are cultural in nature, not military. The same cannot be said for Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said…
Did the War in #Afghanistan Have to Happen? “One mistake was that we turned down the Taliban’s attempt to negotiate (in 2001)” said Carter Malkasian, a former senior adviser to Gen. Joseph Dunford, who was chairman of #US Joint Chiefs of Staff. #Taliban

“We were hugely overconfident in 2001, and we thought the Taliban had gone away and weren’t going to come back,” he said. “We also wanted revenge, and so we made a lot of mistakes that we shouldn’t have made," said Malkasian

Almost 20 years later, the United States did negotiate a deal to end the Afghan war, but the balance of power was entirely different by then — it favored the Taliban.


Taliban fighters brandished Kalashnikovs and shook their fists in the air after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, defying American warnings that if they did not hand over Osama Bin Laden, their country would be bombed to smithereens.

The bravado faded once American bombs began to fall. Within a few weeks, many of the Taliban had fled the Afghan capital, terrified by the low whine of approaching B-52 aircraft. Soon, they were a spent force, on the run across the arid mountain-scape of Afghanistan. As one of the journalists who covered them in the early days of the war, I saw their uncertainty and loss of control firsthand.

It was in the waning days of November 2001 that Taliban leaders began to reach out to Hamid Karzai, who would soon become the interim president of Afghanistan: They wanted to make a deal.

“The Taliban were completely defeated, they had no demands, except amnesty,” recalled Barnett Rubin, who worked with the United Nations’ political team in Afghanistan at the time.

Messengers shuttled back and forth between Mr. Karzai and the headquarters of the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, in Kandahar. Mr. Karzai envisioned a Taliban surrender that would keep the militants from playing any significant role in the country’s future.

But Washington, confident that the Taliban would be wiped out forever, was in no mood for a deal.

“The United States is not inclined to negotiate surrenders,” Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said in a news conference at the time, adding that the Americans had no interest in leaving Mullah Omar to live out his days anywhere in Afghanistan. The United States wanted him captured or dead.

Almost 20 years later, the United States did negotiate a deal to end the Afghan war, but the balance of power was entirely different by then — it favored the Taliban.

For diplomats who had spent years trying to shore up the U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan, the deal that President Donald J. Trump struck with the Taliban in February 2020 to withdraw American troops — an agreement President Biden decided to uphold shortly after taking office this year — felt like a betrayal.

Now, with the Taliban back in power, some of those diplomats are looking back at a missed chance by the United States, all those years ago, to pursue a Taliban surrender that could have halted America’s longest war in its infancy, or shortened it considerably, sparing many lives.

For some veterans of America’s entanglement in Afghanistan, it is hard to imagine that talks with the Taliban in 2001 would have yielded a worse outcome than what the United States ultimately got.

“One mistake was that we turned down the Taliban’s attempt to negotiate,” Carter Malkasian, a former senior adviser to Gen. Joseph Dunford, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during parts of the Obama and Trump administrations, said of the American decision not to discuss a Taliban surrender nearly 20 years ago.

“We were hugely overconfident in 2001, and we thought the Taliban had gone away and weren’t going to come back,” he said. “We also wanted revenge, and so we made a lot of mistakes that we shouldn’t have made.”

Riaz Haq said…
Why so much poppy grows in Afghanistan?

1. Poppy plant is very hardy. It grows easily in Afghan soil where other crops are much harder to grow.

2. Harvesting poppy is labor intensive and uses a lot of people in a place like Afghanistan where there's very little mechanization.

3. Poppy earns a lot of cash to support the economy.

Via APM Marketplace radio show

Despite the U.S. spending approximately $8.97 billion over the past two decades trying to eradicate Afghanistan’s illegal drug trade, it remains the world’s biggest supplier of illicit opium and the crop remains an important source of funding for the Taliban.

Jeffrey Clemens, an associate professor of economics at the University of California at San Diego, spoke with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal about the economic fundamentals that helped doom the U.S. effort to suppress opium production in Afghanistan and what it means for the Taliban’s power. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: Can we do a little ground truth here before we dig in? Drug trafficking and the Afghan economy — contextualize that for me.

Jeffrey Clemens: Sure. According to the United Nations, in 2020, Afghan farmers would have received something on the order of $500 million associated with selling the opium that they’ve cultivated, and the estimated value of the heroin and other opiates as they cross the border out of Afghanistan and into other countries is somewhere on the order of $2 billion. So, that amount accounts for something like 10% of its overall [gross domestic product].

Ryssdal: OK, here’s the thing: The American government spent billions of dollars over the past 20 years trying to eradicate the opium trade. Obviously, it has failed. First of all, was that a fool’s errand?

Clemens: Yes. I think it was a fool’s errand, in large part because the cultivation of opium poppy by Afghan farmers and the trafficking of that opium and heroin out of the country is something that, unfortunately, just has made sense in terms of economic fundamentals within Afghanistan. Should I take a minute to unpack that?

Ryssdal: Yeah, that’d be great, actually.

Clemens: Sure. So you know, when we think about why Afghanistan has played such a major role in the global trade in opiates, there are a few, you know, in some ways, very mundane reasons why that’s the case. So for one, the agricultural land in Afghanistan is not that great, and opium poppy turns out to be a pretty hardy crop. The second issue is that the infrastructure in Afghanistan is quite bad, which means that there’s more risk than you might expect for cultivating relatively perishable crops. Opium tends to be relatively nonperishable, and it’s also pretty lightweight for the cash value. And then finally, opium poppy is incredibly labor-intensive to harvest. And so an economy like Afghanistan’s, where there, you know, isn’t a lot of high-tech capital associated with the agricultural sector, ends up being a place where opium poppy tends to thrive. And so the U.S. and international effort to suppress the opium trade is trying to push against all of these, you know, pretty basic economic fundamentals, making it, as you said, a fool’s errand.
Riaz Haq said…
The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar - Afghanistan Analysts Network

by Borhan Osman, Afghan Analysts Network

Gradually, the muhajerin turned out to be more than solely oppressed civilians in pursuit of humanitarian assistance. They carried weapons and displayed allegiance to Pakistani militant groups. Hoping to use them against Pakistan, the Afghan government started to woo some of these fighters, according to influential tribal elders involved in helping relation-building from the districts that sheltered the guest militants. Tribal elders feuding against their rivals over land or power also sought to get the support of one group or another. The most well-known case of these militants finding a welcoming home in Nangarhar is that of the Lashkar-e Islam group led by Mangal Bagh. (1) Local residents put the number of this group from the Khyber Agency differently, but a general estimation puts them at no fewer than 500 in the past three years.


However, efforts by the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS, the Afghan intelligence), to woo Pakistani militants in Nangarhar have not been confined to Lashkar-e Islam or to militants from Khyber. Tribal elders and ordinary residents of Achin, Nazian and Kot testify that fighters from Orakzai and Mohmand agencies belonging to different factions of the TTP have been allowed free movement across the province, as well as treatment in government hospitals. When moving outside their hub in Nangarhar’s southern districts, they would go unarmed. In off-the-record conversations with AAN, government officials have verified this type of relationship between segments of the Pakistani militants and the NDS, as have pro-government tribal elders and politicians in Jalalabad. They described this state of affairs as a small-scale tit-for-tat
Riaz Haq said…
Did #Pakistan Help #Taliban Retake #Afghanistan? Ex #US #military advisor Sara Chayes alleges the it was the #Pakistani #ISI that helped the "rag-tag" Taliban militia plan & execute their recent military campaign to swiftly retake Afghanistan via @YouTube
Riaz Haq said…
#US sees "critical" Afghanistan role for #Pakistan despite #Taliban ties. On Tuesday, #Afghan women and men marched to the Pakistani embassy in #Kabul condemning the offensive in #PanjshirValley. "Support Panjshir, death to Pakistan," they shouted.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has denied that his country is taking sides in Afghanistan.

One week before the Taliban swept into Kabul, Khan told journalists: "Pakistan is just considered only to be useful in the context of somehow settling this mess which has been left behind after 20 years of trying to find a military solution when there was not one."

Khan added: "I think that the Americans have decided that India is their strategic partner now, and I think that's why there's a different way of treating Pakistan now."


"Pakistan has frequently and publicly advocated for an inclusive government with broad support in Afghanistan and we look to Pakistan to play a critical role in enabling that outcome," the (US) spokesperson added.

"The entire international community has a stake in ensuring the Taliban live up to their public commitments and obligations.

"It's critical that the members of the international community with the most influence in Afghanistan use all the means at their disposal to ensure that Afghanistan lives up to its obligations under the UN Charter."

With the fall of the U.S.-backed civilian government in Kabul last month, the Taliban has seized control of most of the country and is now defeating the last resistance groups in the Panjshir Valley as it prepares to announce the makeup of its new government.

National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF) leader Ahmad Massoud claimed this week that Pakistan facilitated his forces' defeat in Panjshir.

Massoud alleged that his forces had been under "bombardment by Pakistan and Taliban," and that "foreign mercenaries supporting the Taliban have always existed, they did so in the past, and will continue to do in the future."

The NRF has been posting propaganda posters online framing the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as subservient to Pakistan.

Some Afghans were also outraged by a photograph of ISI chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed visiting Kabul last week as the Taliban discussed the formation of their new government. His presence was taken as a sign of Pakistani and ISI influence over the incoming government.

There have also been reports that the ISI is fuelling Taliban infighting between those loyal to political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and members of the powerful Haqqani network.

The U.S. is in the process of recalibrating its Afghanistan strategy, following the humiliating retreat from Kabul and the stunning failure of its costly two-decade nation-building effort.

American officials are still in touch with the Taliban as the U.S. tries to extract all remaining American citizens who wish to leave the country. The diplomatic effort is being run through a team in Doha, Qatar, following the abandonment of the U.S. embassy in Kabul during the withdrawal.

Riaz Haq said…
#Taliban arrest four #Afghan border guards for defiling #Pakistan flags from aid truck carrying 300 tons of edibles — wheat flour, rice and edible oil. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said those involved would be dealt with severely.- Pakistan Today

Four Taliban border guards have been arrested for removing the Pakistan flag from the truck which had brought in aid on Sunday, along the Torkham border in Afghanistan, group spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said on Tuesday.

Mujahid said the Taliban condemn the incident which has happened and efforts are put to control the occurrence of such incidents in the future.

The truck from which Taliban border guards had removed the flags was carrying aid and relief sent by Pak-Afghan Cooperation Forum, a relief agency.

A footage that went viral on social media showed that as soon as the truck, part of a relief convoy of 17 trucks, entered the Afghanistan side of the Durand Line, the security guards started removing the flag from the vehicle.

The aid carried by truck included 300 tons of edibles — wheat flour, rice and edible oil.

Mujahid while expressing anger over the incident said that the whole Taliban leadership was angry about this incident and those involved would be dealt with severely.

Until the formal handing over ceremony, the environment was very friendly, said an office-bearer of the Pak-Afghan Cooperation Forum.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on September 17 informed his government has started negotiations with the Taliban to form an all-inclusive government in Afghanistan.
Riaz Haq said…
#USDA says #Pakistan’s #wheat import estimate for 2021-22 is still at 2 million tons, in spite of the 27 million ton bumper wheat crop. Why? #Afghanistan imports all its flour from Pakistan, which might pressure Pakistan to import more wheat for stocks.

Although Pakistan produced a record wheat crop of 27 million tonnes in the 2021-22 marketing year, it was insufficient to meet the country’s domestic consumption requirements and maintain large strategic reserves, according to a recent Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The report noted that at 2%, Pakistan’s annual population growth rate is among the highest in the world, so future supplies — either through domestic production or imports — must be increased to meet consumption and stock management goals.

The USDA said Pakistan’s wheat import estimate for 2021-22 is unchanged from the previous forecast at 2 million tonnes.

“Even though in June 2021, the government announced intentions to buy 3 million tonnes during 2021-22, as of Sept. 20 only 57,000 tonnes had been imported,” the USDA said, noting that the government recently bought another 110,000 tonnes for arrival in early October.

Recent wheat imports have come from the Black Sea region, and that is expected to continue in 2021-22 due to price and quality considerations, the USDA said.

The USDA said the domestic wheat demand situation likely will be impacted by neighboring Afghanistan becoming increasingly politically unstable. Afghanistan imports almost all of its domestic flour from Pakistan, which might pressure Pakistan to import more wheat for stocks.

Riaz Haq said…
Adrian Levy: "R&AW using forces & assets & officers of every kind against Pakistan...It did that with MQM.. in London - recruiting inside MQM...does this in London, Vienna, Geneva...outfits in Kashmir and along the Durand Line" #MQM #PTM #PMLN #RAW #India

Taliban has never been India’s enemyInterview/ Adrian Levy, author

Levy recently co-authored Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, published by Juggernaut, with author-journalist Cathy Scott-Clark.

In the book, you describe Kulbhushan Jadhav as an asset and not an officer. What is the difference?

In Jadhav, Pakistan spotted an opportunity. India required a new facility post 26/11; there was a need to step up and deploy assets that had access deep inside Pakistan and neighbouring countries to illuminate operations by Jaish, LeT and Al Qaeda. Given that actions by these groups had been switched down to only a simmer in Kashmir, they re-formed in Karachi and elsewhere looking for new routes to attack India. All agencies in India needed to reset around this thesis, be it the Indian Navy, the Intelligence Bureau or R&AW.

India worked hard to make connections through assets in Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and [among] Baloch nationalists, as well as seeking influence in places like Iran’s Chabahar Port, which was the natural competitor to Gwadar Port. So, there is China and Pakistan in Gwadar and R&AW and Iran in Chabahar. What we have are two ports of extreme strategic importance in Central Asia. And then there is Kulbhushan Jadhav working in Chabahar, but also able to traverse Pakistan and India. The man has at least two forms of official identity, mis-describing his religion and an actual address in Mumbai that the ISI learns is linked to a former senior police officer. The ISI sees a perfect opportunity to trap India. To build Jadhav from a roving itinerant—a roving ear—into being seen as an Indian master spy.

Are you saying Pakistan’s claim on Jadhav is real?

What cops do is detect crimes and put them through the criminal justice system, but what spymasters do is latch on to a crime and let it run as long as possible to see what the man is up to. They germinated an idea—in this case a conspiracy to attack a Pakistan air force base—and thrust upon him plans for the base, making him a party in a serious criminal conspiracy. They waited to see whom he would contact. Would he find a Baloch national? All along, in the background, they know he is a family man with kids. So, Jadhav gets jammed between spy wars of two sides.

In spy wars, enemy's enemy is your friend. How true is it for India?

Agencies like R&AW and Intelligence Bureau are using forces and assets and officers of every kind against Pakistan. This is classic intelligence work and this is what R&AW should be doing and is doing, while shielding its actions. It did that with MQM, when it was divided and its leader took asylum in London - recruiting inside MQM. The agency does this in London, Vienna, Geneva and other safe European havens and not within the theatre which is Pakistan. It does this with other outfits in Kashmir and along the Durand Line.

Riaz Haq said…
From Twitter:

Sharif Hassan

November 23, 2021

Sanullah Ghafari, the Isis-K leader known as Shahab al-Muhajir, was a special guard of Amrullah Saleh, Ghani’s first Vice President. His ID card posted by the US counterterrorism bureau was issued on March 21, 2019 — nearly two weeks after Ghani & Saleh assumed power.

Note: This tweet has since been deleted.
Riaz Haq said…
Darul Uloom Haqqania Madrassa: #Afghan #Taliban ministers' alma mater in #Pakistan. Haqqania's curriculum includes English, math & computer science. It claims zero-tolerance policy for anti-state activities. #education #Islam #science #math #Jihad

Haqqania has broadened its curriculum to include English, math and computer science. It demands full documentation from foreign students, including those from Afghanistan, and administrators said it adopted a zero-tolerance policy for anti-state activities.


AKORA KHATTAK, Pakistan — The Taliban have seized Afghanistan, and this school couldn’t be prouder.

Darul Uloom Haqqania madrasa, one of Pakistan’s largest and oldest seminaries, has educated more Taliban leaders than any school in the world. Now its alumni hold key positions in Afghanistan.

The school’s critics call it a university of jihad and blame it for helping to sow violence across the region for decades. And they worry that extremist madrasas and the Islamist parties linked to them could be emboldened by the Taliban’s victory, potentially fueling further radicalism in Pakistan despite that country’s efforts to bring more than 30,000 seminaries under greater government control.

The school says it has changed and has argued that the Taliban should be given the chance to show they have moved beyond their bloody ways since they first ruled Afghanistan two decades ago.

“The world has seen their capabilities to run the country through their victories on both the diplomatic front and on the battlefield,” said Rashidul Haq Sami, the seminary’s vice chancellor.


Haqqania has broadened its curriculum to include English, math and computer science. It demands full documentation from foreign students, including those from Afghanistan, and administrators said it adopted a zero-tolerance policy for anti-state activities.

Experts on education in Pakistan say that the effort has had some success and that Haqqania doesn’t advocate militancy like it once did.

Still, they said, such madrasas teach a narrow interpretation of Islam. Lessons focus on how to argue with opposing faiths rather than critical thinking, and stress enforcement of practices like punishing theft with amputation and sex outside marriage with stoning. That makes some of their students vulnerable to recruitment from militant groups.

“In an environment of widespread support for the Taliban, both with the government and society, it would be na├»ve to hope that madrasas and other mainstream educational institutions would adopt a teaching approach other than a pro-Taliban one,” said Mr. Abbas, the author.

The school’s syllabus may be less influential than individual instructors.

“Whenever a madrasa student is found engaged in an act of violence, the wider approach is to hold the madrasa system and its syllabus responsible for the ill and no attention is paid to the teacher or teachers who influenced the student,” Mr. Abbas said.


School administrators point to recent statements by some groups in Afghanistan as reflective moderate teachings. After the Taliban captured Kabul, the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Sami party, founded by Mr. Sami’s father, urged them to ensure the safety of Afghans and foreigners, particularly diplomats, protect the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and allow women access to higher education.

In any case, Mr. Sami said, the world has little choice but to trust the Taliban’s ability to govern.

“I advise the international community to give a chance to the Taliban to run the country,” he said. “If they are not allowed to work, there will be a new civil war in Afghanistan and it will affect the entire region.”
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan offers $63m #education package for #Afghanistan. It includes 3,000 scholarships, free training with stipends for 5,000 #Afghan, training 150 Afghan teachers, 100 #nursing diploma scholarships, and a university in #Kabul via @middleeastmnt

Pakistan has finalised an Rs11.2 billion ($63 million) education package for Afghan students and plans to establish a university campus in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, a senior official said on Monday and Anadolu News Agency reports.

The Ministry of Education and Professional Training package "includes 3,000 scholarships, free training with stipends for 5,000 Afghan nationals, free training for 150 Afghan teachers, 100 nursing diploma scholarships, and the establishment of an AIOU (Allama Iqbal Open University) regional campus in Kabul to improve the education sector and skill development," a senior Pakistani government official told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity, as the package is expected to soon be announced by the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister.

The AIOU in Islamabad is the country's largest university, and its chancellor is Pakistan's President.

During acting Afghan Higher Education Minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani's first visit to Pakistan last month, the University of Management and Technology in Lahore also announced 100 scholarships for Afghan students and 10 PhD scholarships for teachers and researchers to support education in the war-torn country, the officer added.

"Pakistan is making a significant contribution to providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan," he said. "So far, we have offered enormous relief assistance to Afghan people to help them in this difficult time."

Last November, Prime Minister, Imran Khan, announced over $28 million medical, food, and other humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan owing to the economic crisis that emerged after the Taliban seized control of Kabul in mid-August.

Last week, Pakistan also dispatched a team of engineers and technicians to Afghanistan for installation and commissioning new medical equipment worth Rs 2 billion ($11 million) in various Afghan hospitals.

"We are helping the Afghan people in these difficult times; as last month, our medical teams arranged free eye camps in Khost province and carried out 424 surgeries," the official said.

Last week, Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, stated his country played a crucial role in the safe evacuation of nearly 80,000 people from 42 countries and nationalities, including diplomats and UN officials, from Kabul.

Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has pledged Rs5 billion ($28.3 billion) in aid to Afghanistan, with the first consignment already on its way, Qureshi said.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan pledges $1 billion aid for #water, #electricity and waste projects in #Tanzania. The proposal was unveiled recently at the launch of Tanzania-Pakistan Business Council (TPBC) in Dar es Salaam. #Afrik21

The Islamic, federal and multiparty Republic of Pakistan plans to invest $1 billion in Tanzania over a five-year period. The funds will accelerate the implementation of several projects in the East African country, particularly in the water, power and waste sectors.
Tanzania will benefit from a new loan for sustainable development. The funding proposal from the Pakistani government was unveiled recently during the launch of the Tanzania-Pakistan Business Council (TPBC) in Dar es Salaam. The amount of the future funding is $1 billion.

According to TPBC chairman Shaidi Majeed, Pakistan will mobilise the funds over five years to support Tanzania’s efforts in water supply, power supply and waste management.

Building new facilities
In 2020, the total funding provided to the Tanzanian government already amounted to $490 million, says the Pakistani embassy in Tanzania. The $1 billion loan will thus increase its financing portfolio in the East African country.

Tanzania is facing drought, which is manifested in the lack of rainfall. In order to secure water supplies for households and farmers, the government is implementing a number of projects, the latest of which will see the construction of 21 irrigation schemes in the Mbeya region. The future facilities will boost production of paddy to 97,300 tonnes per year. Paddy is a rice grain that has kept all its husks intact.

In terms of drinking water, the Tanzanian government plans to invest US$12.1 billion between 2022 and 2023, as part of the Arusha Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement Project. In terms of electricity, the Tanzanian government is increasingly focusing on hydro and solar power to diversify the country’s electricity mix. According to a 2015 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), Tanzania is 66% dependent on natural gas and oil for its electricity production.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan’s #Taliban problem is #America’s too. It raises the possibility that the #US could target #TTP commanders found operating in #Afghanistan – much as it killed #AlQaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a #drone strike in #Kabul in September.

When the United States withdrew its forces from Afghanistan after 20 years in the country, it did so on a promise that the Taliban once back in government would provide no haven for terrorist groups.

The Taliban pledge covered not only al Qaeda – the terror group whose presence in the country led to the US invasion in 2001 – but also the Taliban’s ideological twin next door, the Pakistani Taliban or TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan).

But the recent break down of an already shaky year-long ceasefire in neighboring Pakistan between the TTP and Islamabad raises some troubling questions over whether that promise will hold.

The end of the ceasefire in Pakistan threatens not only escalating violence in that country but potentially an increase in cross-border tensions between the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

And it is already putting links between the Afghan Taliban and its Pakistani counterpart under the spotlight.

As recently as spring last year Pakistani Taliban leader Noor Wali Mehsud told CNN that in return for helping to push the US out of Kabul his group would expect support from the Afghan Taliban in its own fight.

Like their erstwhile brothers in arms in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban want to overthrow their country’s government and impose their own strict Islamic code.

In an exclusive interview with CNN this week, Mehsud blamed the ceasefire’s breakdown on Islamabad, saying it “violated the ceasefire and martyred tens of our comrades and arrested tens of them.”

But he was more guarded when asked directly whether the Afghan Taliban was now helping his group as he had once hoped.

His answer: “We are fighting Pakistan’s war from within the territory of Pakistan; using Pakistani soil. We have the ability to fight for many more decades with the weapons and spirit of liberation that exist in the soil of Pakistan.”

Those words should be of concern not only to Islamabad, but Washington too.

The FBI has been tracking the TTP for at least a decade and a half, long before they radicalized and trained Faisal Shazad for his brazen attack setting fire to a vehicle in New York’s Times Square in 2010.

Following the Times Square attack the TTP was designated a terrorist organization and is still considered a threat to US interests.

And while Islamabad is keen to play down the threat from the group – Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah says Pakistan can “fully” control conflict with the TTP and describes conversations with the TTP during the ceasefire as talks “which are held in a state of war” – its control of the situation pivots on the TTP remaining within Pakistan’s borders.

There are growing questions about the TTP’s reach and Islamabad’s perception of the situation does not match Mehsud’s.

In April this year, the Pakistani military struck targets in Afghanistan warning that “terrorists are using Afghan soil with impunity to carry out activities inside Pakistan.”
Riaz Haq said…
#Afghan Man Takes #Daughters To #Pakistan To Get Them An #Education. Asif Shakuri moved his family to #Balochistan, Pakistan from #Kandahar in #Afghanistan after his eldest daughters were shut out of university by #Taliban ban on girls' college education.

The Taliban in Afghanistan has prevented many women from attending university and suspended secondary education for girls since retaking power in 2021.
Riaz Haq said…
#Afghan #Taliban Fighters, Unsettled by Peace, Seek New Battles Abroad, in #Pakistan. “Our only expectation is to be martyred,” Tahir says in a video of him en route to Pakistan. A month later, he was killed by Pakistani security forces. #TTP #Terror

The exodus has renewed longstanding fears about violent extremism spilling out of Afghanistan under the Taliban and destabilizing neighboring countries or one day reaching Western targets. Countries from Russia and China to the United States and Iran have all raised alarms about the possible resurgence in Afghanistan of terrorist groups, like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, with more global ambitions.

Taliban leadership has publicly condemned the outflow of fighters. The men, who acknowledge that they have gone to Pakistan without official permission, have joined a militant group known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or T.T.P., which seeks to impose strict Islamist rule.

But whether Afghanistan’s government stems the tide will signal to the rest of the world its ability and willingness to contain extremist groups within its borders.

“If you look at how the Taliban are enabling the T.T.P., restraining but housing various elements of Al Qaeda, protecting and shielding the alphabet soup of Central Asian militant organizations — all of this challenges the idea that the Taliban are serious about not allowing Afghanistan to be a safe haven of international terrorism,” said Asfandyar Mir, a senior expert at the United States Institute of Peace, a federal government institution.

In Pakistan, the young men have already helped fuel a return of militant violence this year, worsening tensions between the two governments. Pakistani authorities have accused Afghan officials of sheltering terror groups and turning a blind eye to their soldiers joining the groups, which Taliban officials deny.

Last week, an Islamic State affiliate long based in Afghanistan carried out a suicide blast in Pakistan that killed around 60 people. The bombing added to a mounting death toll from similar attacks by the T.T.P. that have grown more frequent since the Afghan Taliban came to power.

Over the past year, the T.T.P. has carried out at least 123 attacks across Pakistan — about double the number it claimed in the year before the Taliban seized power, according to the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies, which monitors extremist violence.

It’s unclear exactly how many Afghans have crossed the border to join the T.T.P. or other groups, but it is a small minority of the tens of thousands of former Taliban fighters.

“Young men seeking thrill and adventure is common everywhere; from Americas, to Europe to Asia, Africa and elsewhere,” said Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “This adventurism does not reflect common trends or public opinion, rather they are anomalies.”

Those who go are driven by yearslong religious education in Taliban-run madrasas that extol the ideals of global jihad and martyrdom, they and their relatives say. Others are bored in their new peacetime roles as soldiers or police officers charged with mundane tasks like manning checkpoints and doing routine security sweeps.

Many are also invigorated by the collapse of the Western-backed government in Afghanistan.

“Peace and security have been secured in our country, so now we need to fight in other countries and secure the rights of other Muslims,” a Taliban member named Wahdat said one recent evening while he drank tea alongside a handful of his colleagues in Kabul.

“It’s more important to go there and continue our jihad there than to stay in our country,” his friend, Malang added. Mr. Wahdat and Mr. Malang, both 22 and now police officers, preferred to go only by their last names because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Popular posts from this blog

Pakistani Women's Growing Particpation in Workforce

Project Azm: Pakistan to Develop 5th Generation Fighter Plane

Pakistan's Saadia Zahidi Leads World Economic Forum's Gender Parity Effort