Pakistani Security Officials Had Warned of Afghan Army's Collapse

Pakistani security officials had warned Americans and Indians that the Afghan Army would collapse when faced with the Taliban onslaught, according to multiple people including American journalist Steve Coll and Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Former US Ambassador Ryan Crocker who has served in both Afghanistan and Pakistan has recently written that Pakistanis' skepticism has been validated. 

Afghan National Army

In response to a question posed by New Yorker staff writer Isaac Chotiner, Steve Coll, author of "Directorate S" about Pakistan ISI, said, "I remember talking to the Pakistani generals about this (US building Afghan Army) circa 2012. And they all said, “You just can’t do that. It won’t work.” They turned out to be right". Here's the relevant excerpt of the New Yorker interview published on August 15, 2021: 

Isaac Chotiner: Why, ultimately, was it so hard to stand up the Afghan military to a greater extent than America did? Was it some lack of political legitimacy? Some problem with the actual training? 

Steve Coll: I don’t know what proportion of the factors, including the ones you listed, to credit. But I think that the one additional reason it didn’t work was the sheer scale of the ambition. And this was visible in Iraq as well. Building a standing army of three hundred thousand in a country that has been shattered by more than forty consecutive years of war and whose economy is almost entirely dependent on external aid—that just doesn’t work. What did work was what at various stages people thought might be possible, which was to build a stronger, more coherent, better-trained force, which has effectively been the only real fighting force on behalf of the Kabul government over the past few years. This force is referred to as commandos or Special Forces, but it is basically twenty or thirty thousand people. That you can build with a lot of investment and hands-on training. But you can’t just create an army of three hundred thousand. I remember talking to the Pakistani generals about this circa 2012. And they all said, “You just can’t do that. It won’t work.” They turned out to be right.

2013 video clip of Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has recently surfaced in which he essentially confirms what Steve Coll told The New Yorker.  Doval can be heard saying that the 325,000 strong Afghan Army and police will deliver. He said the Afghan Army is well trained and sufficiently motivated. Doval believed the Afghan National Army will defend the Afghan state and Afghanistan's constitution and democracy irrespective of what happens at the political level, he added. Doval said he didn't believe 15-20 Pakistani security officials who have told him otherwise. He said he never believes anything the Pakistanis say.  

Former US Ambassador Ryan Crocker who has served in both Afghanistan and Pakistan has written in a New York Times Op Ed that "We (Americans) have again validated their (Pakistanis') skepticism".  Here's an excerpt of Crocket's Op Ed:

I pushed Pakistani officials repeatedly on the need to deny the Taliban safe havens. The answer I got back over time went like this: “We know you. We know you don’t have patience for the long fight. We know the day will come when you just get tired and go home — it’s what you do. But we aren’t going anywhere — this is where we live. So if you think we are going to turn the Taliban into a mortal enemy, you are completely crazy.” We have again validated their skepticism.

In a recent interview with BBC's Yalda Hakim, General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the British Armed Forces, has said that the Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa is an upright man. Carter said that General Bajwa wanted to see a peaceful and moderate Afghanistan. He said that Pakistan had to face various challenges. Pakistan sheltered 3.5 million Afghan refugees on its soil. The British military chief said Pakistan had set up barricades on the Afghan border and was keeping a close eye on border traffic.  

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 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.  


Comments

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan NSA @YusufMoeed on scapegoating of his country: “Did Pakistan tell the Afghan National Army not to fight? Did Pakistan tell Ashraf Ghani to run away?..the entire state collapsed in a week. So somebody was lying...." #US #Afghanistan #Taliban https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/08/25/pakistan-wants-be-treated-like-an-ally-not-scapegoat/

As the world begins to process the implications of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, lots of people in Washington are pointing fingers at Pakistan, a major non-NATO ally that hasn’t been seen as an ally for a long time. But the world is changing fast, and the United States and Pakistan each have a clear interest in moving past their problems and working together, the country’s national security adviser told me in an interview.

To the extent that Pakistan is mentioned in U.S. media coverage of the Afghanistan crisis, it is mostly indicted for its alleged support of the Taliban over the years. Now that the Taliban has taken power, Washington experts are once again accusing Pakistan of complicity with the jihadists and calling for punishments, such as cutting off assistance or imposing sanctions on the government. But in Islamabad, the civilian leadership is not celebrating the Taliban victory. Instead it is trying to manage the coming fallout.

Afghan instability could lead to more terrorism, refugees and economic hardship for Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s national security adviser, Moeed Yusuf, said in a phone interview. The United States and Pakistan have a shared interest in working together in Afghanistan, he said, but that will require fixing the bilateral relationship.

“Right now, in the situation we are in, how are U.S. and Pakistan’s interests not aligned?” he said. “I’m not asking for any sympathy for Pakistan. I’m thinking in terms of pure U.S. selfish national interests. How does it help to push away a country of this size, stature and power?”

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that elements of the Pakistani military and intelligence system have supported the Taliban for years, a charge the civilian leadership denies. According to Human Rights Watch, this support has included funding, diplomatic support, recruiting and training of Taliban fighters, providing the Taliban arms and even direct combat support.

Pakistan perennially stands accused of providing havens for the Taliban on its side of the border. Pakistani officials point out that tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers have died fighting extremists in their own country since 9/11.

“Pakistan is the victim. We had nothing to do with 9/11. … We teamed up with the U.S. to fight back … and after that there is a major backlash on Pakistan,” Yusuf said. “But let’s let all that pass. We need to work out how to move forward as partners, because neither side can do without the other in terms of stability in the region.”

The U.S.-supported government in Kabul used Pakistan as a scapegoat to excuse its own ineptitude, corruptions and unpopularity, Yusuf said. Pakistan helped bring the Taliban to the negotiating table at Washington’s request, got cut out of the negotiations and is now being blamed for the outcome.

“Did Pakistan tell the Afghan National Army not to fight? Did Pakistan tell Ashraf Ghani to run away?” he said. “The entire state collapsed in a week. So somebody was lying, somebody was misreporting, or somebody was mistaken about the reality and when it came to informing the taxpayers of the Western world.”

Riaz Haq said…
Ghazala Wahab
@ghazalawahab

Two reasons why India's foreign policy always come up short.

1. Exaggerated sense of self.
2. Deep-rooted hatred against Pakistan, which translates into prejudice against Muslims; and repeated iteration of cross-border terrorism, when we know there is no such thing

#IndiaAt75

https://twitter.com/ghazalawahab/status/1430526871196684297?s=20
Riaz Haq said…
Bruce Reidel on Taliban victory in Afghanistan:


https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/08/24/pakistans-problematic-victory-in-afghanistan/

The Biden administration has taken a curious lack of interest in Pakistan. Routine contacts with the army, diplomats, and spies have continued but President Biden has ignored the country. He has not spoken with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. Khan is the elected leader of the sixth most populous country in the world with a growing nuclear weapons arsenal. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been to New Delhi but not to Islamabad. The fiasco in Kabul should be a wake-up call to get involved.


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The Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani army patrons are back in Kabul before the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Pakistan’s army Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) has backed the Taliban since the group’s origin in the mid-1990s. Under intense pressure in September 2001, the ISI briefly removed its experts and assistance, creating the same panic and flight to the Taliban that the U.S. withdrawal just did to the Afghan army. But the ISI quickly renewed its support and that aid continues today. The Taliban/ISI victory in Afghanistan will have significant consequences for Pakistan, some of which may be dangerous and violent.

Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban, was trained by the ISI during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s. When he was wounded, he got medical attention in a Pakistani hospital. After the Soviets retreated out of Afghanistan, he was one of many warlords fighting for control of the country. As he created the Taliban, the Pakistani army gave him support for the drive on Kabul in 1996 that gave the Taliban control of most of the country. Pakistan provided experts and advisers for the Taliban military, oil for its economy and was their supply route to the outside world.


After the American invasion of Afghanistan, Omar went into exile in Pakistan along with most of his lieutenants. With the ISI’s help, they rebuilt the infrastructure in the borderlands and gradually stepped up attacks on the NATO and Afghan forces. Pakistani aid went far beyond sanctuary and safe haven for the leadership and cadres and their families — it included training, arms, experts, and help in fundraising, especially in the Gulf states. On occasion, Pakistani advisers accompanied the Taliban on missions inside Afghanistan. The ISI is particularly close to the Haqqani network in the Taliban. Omar most likely died in Karachi; his death was not announced for months.

It is fair to assume that the ISI helped the Taliban plan its blitzkrieg this summer. The Taliban’s seizing of the north reflected memories of its enemies using bases there in the late 1990s to resist the Taliban and the CIA using those facilities to bring down the Taliban in 2001. The plan also prioritized seizing border crossings, especially in the west, which kept Iran from providing aid to its Shiite Hazara allies in Afghanistan.

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Islamist parties in Pakistan have celebrated the victory in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly the ISI is hailing the fall of Kabul as their humbling of a second superpower, but it is savvy enough to do its gloating in private.
Riaz Haq said…
Who killed more #Afghan civilians? In 2019, allied (#US/#NATO) and (#Ghani) government airstrikes in #Afghanistan killed some 700 civilians, more than in any other year since the war’s start, according to the Costs of War Project. #Taliban https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/23/opinion/afghanistan-biden.html?smid=tw-share


“As a consequence, the A.A.F. is harming more Afghan civilians than at any time in its history,” Neta C. Crawford, the chair of the political science department at Boston University and a co-director of the Costs of War Project, wrote last year.

I don’t know the name or background of any of these civilians as I know the name of Zaki Anwari, the 17-year-old member of Afghanistan’s national youth soccer team who fell to his death after clinging to a U.S. military plane evacuating people from Kabul. But America is as responsible for them as it is for the Afghans who will die because of our mismanaged withdrawal. Amid the wrenching scenes of the war’s denouement, that’s easy to forget, especially when commentators pretend that the conflict Joe Biden inherited could have been maintained at little price.

There are two primary critiques of Biden’s Afghanistan policy. The first, which is valid, blames the administration for not clearing bureaucratic obstacles that kept Afghan allies waiting for visas, possibly stranding tens of thousands of people who deserve to be evacuated. The second, which is absurd, blames Biden for defeat in a war that was lost years ago.

Ryan Crocker, Barack Obama’s ambassador to Afghanistan, criticized the administration’s lack of “strategic patience” in a guest essay in The New York Times. “Mr. Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces destroyed an affordable status quo that could have lasted indefinitely at a minimum cost in blood and treasure,” he wrote.

In The Washington Post, Condoleezza Rice wrote, “Twenty years was not enough to complete a journey from the seventh-century rule of the Taliban and a 30-year civil war to a stable government.” She added, “We — and they — needed more time.”

The argument for patience or more time assumes that the American presence in Afghanistan was doing more good than harm. For some Afghans, particularly in the capital, this was undoubtedly true. Keeping a contingent of American troops in Afghanistan might well have protected those who will be most hurt by the Taliban’s theocratic barbarism.

But for America to remain in Afghanistan, Biden would have had to renege on Trump’s deal with the Taliban. More American troops would be required, and fighting, including American airstrikes, would almost certainly ramp up. That would mean more suffering, and more death, for many Afghan civilians.

Crawford told me that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began releasing data on civilian casualties in 2008. Most years, she said, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS were responsible for the majority of civilian deaths, but not every year.

Riaz Haq said…
Mike Mullen’s Afghanistan admission: Biden was right about the mission.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/08/mike-mullen-afghanistan-biden-right-surge-concession.html

The other big mistake, Mullen said: “We underestimated the significance of our presence, in all that we were doing.” First, American trainers created an Afghan army in their own image, heavily reliant on U.S. close-air support, intelligence, logistics, helicopter transport, repair, and maintenance. When this combat support was withdrawn, he said, collapse was almost inevitable. There was a more intangible side of this dependency as well—“the confidence they got by having us there.” He added, “Their soldiers fought—tens of thousands died.” When they saw that we were leaving, the wind went out of them, and so they made deals with the Taliban or simply fled.

And yet, Mullen admits, he sat at the pinnacle of the U.S. military machine back when this dependency was molded.

Most of Mullen’s colleagues from the Bush and Obama era have continued to defend the decision to escalate the war; none have taken responsibility for any strategic miscalculations. Retired Gen. David Petraeus, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has said that, if we’d pull out the troops after killing Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida would simply have returned.

Asked about this claim, Mullen said that Petraeus, with whom he worked closely at the time, makes a “legitimate” point. But, he went on, by 2012, it was “widely believed that al-Qaida was pretty significantly diminished, and that’s where they’ve stayed.” Mullen added, “Keeping al-Qaida at bay” was clearly in U.S. interests, but “it was not a reason to stay”—that is, it was not a mission that required a continued U.S. combat presence, much less a sharp escalation.

Mullen, who now heads a private consulting firm, said that he’s received “tons of email,” much of it from people he barely knew, thanking him for his remarks in the ABC News interview. “A junior officer wrote me, saying how ‘refreshing’ it is, hearing someone in a senior position to admit he got it wrong.”

I asked whether he’d heard from any of his fellow senior officers. “The rest of the silent crew?” he said, with a slight chuckle. “No, I haven’t heard from them.”
Riaz Haq said…
Talks With Taliban Must Continue To Preserve Gains: German Chancellor Angela Merkel | Barron's

https://www.barrons.com/news/talks-with-taliban-must-continue-to-safeguard-afghan-gains-merkel-01629888607

The international community must maintain dialogue with the Taliban if it is to protect improvements made in Afghanistan during two decades of NATO deployment, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday.

"Our goal must be to preserve as much as possible what we have achieved in terms of changes in Afghanistan in the last 20 years. This is something the international community must talk about with the Taliban," Merkel said in a speech to parliament.

Progress made over the years includes access to basic necessities -- 70 percent of Afghans now have access to drinking water as opposed to 20 percent a decade ago.

And nine in 10 people have electricity supplies, up from just two in 10 in 2011.

The fact that the Taliban are back in power is "bitter but we have to deal with it," Merkel said.

"Many things in history take a long time. That is why we must not and will not forget Afghanistan," she said.

"Because even if it doesn't look like it in this bitter hour, I remain convinced that no force or ideology can resist the drive for justice and peace," said Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany but saw the regime collapse in 1989.

Riaz Haq said…
British Defense Forces Chief General Nick Carter: "We may well discover, if we give them the space, that this Taliban is of course more reasonable but what we absolutely have to remember is that they are not a homogenous organisation — the Taliban is a group of disparate tribal figures that come from all over rural Afghanistan."

Carter said the Taliban were essentially "country boys" who lived by the so called "Pashtunwali", the traditional tribal way of life and code of conduct of the Pashtun people.


https://www.trtworld.com/asia/the-taliban-could-be-different-this-time-says-uk-army-chief-49307


The world should give the Taliban the space to form a new government in Afghanistan and it may discover that the insurgents cast as militants by the West for decades have become more reasonable, the head of the British army said, sparking online controversy.

Nick Carter, Britain's chief of the defence staff, said he was in contact with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai who Carter said would meet the Taliban on Wednesday.

"We have to be patient, we have to hold our nerve and we have to give them the space to form a government and we have to give them the space to show their credentials," Carter told the BBC.

"It may be that this Taliban is a different Taliban to the one that people remember from the 1990s."

However, some British lawmakers, journalists and army veterans were doubtful about Carter's observation about the militant group.

Riaz Haq said…
British Defense Forces Chief General Nick Carter: "We may well discover, if we give them the space, that this Taliban is of course more reasonable but what we absolutely have to remember is that they are not a homogenous organisation — the Taliban is a group of disparate tribal figures that come from all over rural Afghanistan."

Carter said the Taliban were essentially "country boys" who lived by the so called "Pashtunwali", the traditional tribal way of life and code of conduct of the Pashtun people.


https://www.trtworld.com/asia/the-taliban-could-be-different-this-time-says-uk-army-chief-49307


The world should give the Taliban the space to form a new government in Afghanistan and it may discover that the insurgents cast as militants by the West for decades have become more reasonable, the head of the British army said, sparking online controversy.

Nick Carter, Britain's chief of the defence staff, said he was in contact with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai who Carter said would meet the Taliban on Wednesday.

"We have to be patient, we have to hold our nerve and we have to give them the space to form a government and we have to give them the space to show their credentials," Carter told the BBC.

"It may be that this Taliban is a different Taliban to the one that people remember from the 1990s."

However, some British lawmakers, journalists and army veterans were doubtful about Carter's observation about the militant group.
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" https://www.newsweek.com/china-losing-pakistan-calls-america-india-enemies-opinion-1622297

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."
Riaz Haq said…
#US Sec of State #Blinken: "Going forward, we will judge our engagement with any Taliban-led government in Afghanistan based on one simple proposition: our interests" #Afghanistan #Taliban #America https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-on-afghanistan/

Thank you. Thank you. Our focus right now is on getting our citizens and getting other – our partners – Afghan partners, third-country partners who have been working in Afghanistan with us – out of the country and to safety. And for that purpose, first, the Taliban, whether we like it or not, is in control – largely in control of the country, certainly in control of the city of Kabul. And it’s been important to work with them to try to facilitate and ensure the departure of all those who want to leave, and that has actually been something that we’ve been focused on for – from the beginning of this operation, because as a practical matter it advances our interests.

Second, we’ve been engaged with the Taliban for some time diplomatically going back years in efforts, as you know, to try to advance a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan. There’s still talks and conversations underway even now between the Taliban and former members of the Afghan government with regard, for example, to a transfer of power and some inclusivity in a future government. And I think it’s in our interest where possible to support those efforts.

Going forward, we will judge our engagement with any Taliban-led government in Afghanistan based on one simple proposition: our interests, and does it help us advance them or not. If engagement with the government can advance the enduring interests we will have in counterterrorism, the enduring interest we’ll have in trying to help the Afghan people who need humanitarian assistance, in the enduring interest we have in seeing that the rights of all Afghans, especially women and girls, are upheld, then we’ll do it.

But fundamentally, the nature of that engagement and the nature of any relationship depends entirely on the actions and conduct of the Taliban. If a future government upholds the basic rights of the Afghan people, if it makes good on its commitments to ensure that Afghanistan cannot be used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks directed against us and our allies and partners, and in the first instance, if it makes good on its commitments to allow people who want to leave Afghanistan to leave, that’s a government we can work with. If it doesn’t, we will make sure that we use every appropriate tool at our disposal to isolate that government, and as I said before, Afghanistan will be a pariah.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s national security adviser urges west to engage with Taliban

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/26/pakistans-national-security-adviser-urges-west-to-engage-with-taliban


Yusuf called for an internationally coordinated effort, backed with an economic plan, to persuade the Taliban government that there “should be an inclusive government, rights protected, a moderate governance model”.

In a speech to the Conservative thinktank Policy Exchange, however, Yusuf came under pressure from Tory MPs who pointed out that retired US military figures had claimed the Taliban had for many years been an arm of Pakistan’s security forces, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. The chair of the defence select committee, Tobias Ellwood, said US forces had found Osama bin Laden, the late al-Qaida leader, inside Pakistan just miles down the road from the country’s equivalent of Sandhurst.

Yusuf retorted that in its fight against Tehrik-i-Taliban, Pakistan’s Taliban, his country had suffered 80,000 casualties and an estimated $150bn in losses.

He also hit back at claims that Islamabad had allowed a porous border to give Taliban militants refuge in Pakistan away from US forces. He said his country had made repeated offers to Afghanistan, including in 2011 to police the border jointly, and in the end had constructed a border fence that was now 97% complete.

“Pakistan has been the victim of the war in terror over the past two decades and has been the only country that was speaking the truth,” he said. He added that Pakistan had told Nato and the US not to try to achieve a military victory, but that the allied forces had aimed for a total triumph. “We said they live in a bubble and don’t have the pulse of the people and it was corrupt.

“We cannot signal to the Afghans that the only ones that matter are those that are fortunate enough to be associated with western and international organisations.

“If the world repeats the mistakes of the 90s, the results will not be better than last time. If we again find the easy path and say ‘we are done and out of here,’ the international legitimacy of the western world will disappear in one second,” he said.

“We will have a humanitarian crisis, we will have instability and we will have a security vacuum that terrorists may fill, again targeting Pakistan first and the western world second.”

Yusuf complained that Pakistan had been excluded from talks in Doha between the Taliban and the US. “We were never asked when the deadlines for troop withdrawal were agreed. We were talking about a ‘responsible withdrawal’, which means political settlement before the withdrawal,” said.

He accused the west of turning Pakistan into a scapegoat “when the real problems on the ground – a lack of trust, corruption, an army not able to stand up – were completely ignored”.
Riaz Haq said…
OPINION
FARAH STOCKMAN

Engaging the Afghanistan We Leave Behind
Aug. 25, 2021

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/25/opinion/biden-taliban-afghanistan.html


The heartbreaking scenes at the Kabul airport should make one thing painfully clear: We can’t airlift the whole country to some safe haven. Although the United States has a moral responsibility to evacuate the Afghans we put in harm’s way, the evacuation and the tragedies associated with it will soon be in the past. The most consequential decisions in the days and weeks ahead involve how we will help the millions of Afghans who will be left behind and how we will relate to their new leaders.

The Biden administration faces a choice: try to thwart any government the Taliban create or use whatever shred of leverage America has left to encourage them to govern as inclusively and moderately as possible. If we care about the people of Afghanistan, we will try the latter — and do so with as little of the hubris and heavy-handedness that helped get us into this mess in the first place.

For many ordinary people across Afghanistan, this is a moment of cynicism and even despair about politics and the long game for their country. The sight of Afghan political and military leaders escaping in American planes is a betrayal, plentiful proof of whose bidding they had been doing all along.

But not everyone caught a cargo plane out of town. The former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and the longtime leader and chairman of Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation Council, Abdullah Abdullah, have been sitting down with Taliban leaders in an attempt to form a new and more inclusive government.
Riaz Haq said…
#Terrorists will target #China in #Pakistan. By targeting China—now the world’s 2nd-largest #economy— terror groups are all increasingly guaranteed attention. China may be developing its relationship with the #Taliban in part to mitigate these concerns https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/08/27/why-terrorists-will-target-china-in-pakistan/

Pakistan has become a microcosm of a larger reality that Beijing is going to have to contend with globally. As it becomes a global power on the world stage, it is going to attract the anger of terrorist organizations. Beijing’s willingness to engage with the Taliban may be an attempt to try to preempt such problems in the new Afghanistan, but history has shown this to be a risky gamble for Beijing.

China tried to strike an earlier pre-9/11 deal with the Taliban to get them to do something about Uyghur groups the Chinese had noticed gathering in Afghanistan, but it is unclear that the Taliban did anything about those groups.

The new deal Beijing and the Taliban are reported to have struck is likely not dissimilar to the previous one in its concerns, but now there is the additional question of the large number of Chinese nationals who can be found around the region, including various intrepid entrepreneurs in Kabul who may not adhere to the various sharia laws the Taliban will impose. Who will guarantee their safety? And none of this will help Beijing overcome the larger problem of the inevitable enemies you attract once you have superpower status.

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The most effective of these attacks was the assault in Dasu. Chinese sources have attributed it to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)—a group whose existence is disputed and whose name is mostly used to refer to a group that calls itself the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP)—acting in unison with the TTP. Both Pakistan and China also used the opportunity to cast blame on India—a perennial accusation thrown around terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

More formally, Beijing seemed to widen the circle of blame during the Afghan Taliban’s two-day visit to China, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi demanding that the Taliban make a clean break from ETIM/TIP and take action against it in Afghanistan as “it was a direct threat to China’s national security.”
Riaz Haq said…

CJ Werleman
@cjwerleman
Eyewitnesses told
@BBCWorld
that a significant numbers of those killed during ISIS-K suicide attack were shot dead by US forces in the panic after the blast.

https://twitter.com/cjwerleman/status/1431537431539376137?s=20

-----------------


CJ Werleman
@cjwerleman
ISIS-K evolved from Indian and Afghan government backed anti-Pakistan terrorist groups, but not a single mention of that in any US based news publication.

NB: Indian state sponsorship of terrorism is one of the least discussed aspects of global terrorism.

https://twitter.com/cjwerleman/status/1431744564268716032?s=20
Riaz Haq said…
From @TheEconomist: #ISIS_K "lost almost 12,000 operatives between 2015 and 2018, in the face of counter-terrorism pressure from America and the Pakistani government. The UN reckons it has just 500 to 1,500 left" #Pakistan #Afghanistan #KabulAiport #US #UN https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2021/08/27/what-is-the-islamic-state-khorasan-province

Its (ISIS-K's) hatred of the Taliban is not just theological. It is also the product of fierce competition between jihadists for resources, both human and economic. The group seems to have been established in 2014, with Hafiz Saeed Khan, a former member of the Taliban in both Afghanistan and later Pakistan, as its first emir. (He was killed by an American airstrike in Afghanistan in 2016.) It grew by attracting other disaffected members of the Taliban, which had been routed in Afghanistan and had fled across the border into Pakistan. It went as far as declaring war on its rival in 2015. But ISKP now has relatively few fighters in Afghanistan. It lost almost 12,000 operatives between 2015 and 2018, in the face of counter-terrorism pressure from America and the Pakistani government. The UN reckons it has just 500 to 1,500 left.

But even after being rooted out of its eastern strongholds, in Kunar and Nuristan provinces, it has managed to strike repeatedly in Afghan cities. One reason for that, notes Abdul Sayed, an expert on jihadist groups, is that ISKP has absorbed defectors from the Haqqani network, a Taliban-allied group that is also close to al-Qaeda, and which has long experience in conducting suicide bombings in Kabul. The fact that the Taliban had reportedly placed the Haqqani network in charge of Kabul’s security may have helped ISKP mount its attack.

For the moment ISKP’s threat seems to be confined to its heartlands. There is no evidence linking it to terror plots in the West (although one of its stated long-term aims is to raise the “banner of al-Uqab above Jerusalem and the White House”). There also seems to be little love for it in Afghanistan itself. In regions it has previously controlled, such as Nangarhar, its introduction of strict sharia law—from the closing of schools, to brutal punishments for those that fell foul of its interpretation of Isam—has led to resentment. All of that suggests its immediate impact will be limited to the types of outrages perpetrated in Kabul on August 26th. It is no less terrifying for that.

--------------

ISKP is the Central Asian offshoot of Islamic State (IS), a jihadist group that established a short-lived and terrible caliphate in Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2018. Khorasan is a historical area that takes in parts of Iran, Afghanistan and other bits of Central Asia. As its power in the Levant has waned, IS has increasingly looked to gain a foothold in the region. ISKP is not only fiercely anti-Western, but also the sworn enemy of the Taliban, another Islamist group that has taken control of Afghanistan. ISKP has portrayed the Taliban as sell-outs for signing a deal with America and co-operating with its withdrawal.
Riaz Haq said…
"only Afghan Taliban can keep Afghanistan under order, united and peaceful. The US/West is hedging just to see their efficacy. Taliban challengers (ISIS, RAW, NDS, US-backed strongmen) do not have any chance, just like the 50-nation alliance in the 20 long years"

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2305705/afghanistan-where-lies-pakistans-interest-1


Riaz Haq said…
Ex RAW official Rana Banerji to Karan Thapar: "Taliban was formed in the 90’s from a madrasah near Kandahar to counter growing criminal behaviour/rapes due to the vacuum left after Soviet withdrawal & US abandonment...no Pakistanis were involved at this stage.

Taliban were initially funded by President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Pakistanis were later aided/funded by Pakistan ISI in 1994-95.

https://youtu.be/42VPh7OgiWI

https://thewire.in/video/watch-taliban-takeover-what-role-did-pakistans-isi-play-how-much-control-will-it-have-now
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan to set up #WHO airlift into #Afghanistan. #PIA is setting up a #medical/#humanitarian air bridge to Afghanistan, in coordination with #international agencies. https://lasvegassun.com/news/2021/aug/30/the-latest-pakistan-to-set-up-who-airlift-into-afg/ via
@LasVegasSun

Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul said on Monday that his country’s national carrier is setting up an airlift for medical supplies from the World Health Organization to Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.


The diplomat, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, announced on Twitter that the state-run Pakistan International Airlines will serve as a humanitarian air bridge for essential supplies to Afghanistan, in coordination with international agencies.

He thanked PIA, as the carrier is known, for the supplies. It wasn't immediately cleat when the airlift would begin.

The latest development comes days after WHO sought Pakistan’s help in airlifting medical supplies to Afghanistan following last week's deadly attack on the Kabul airport.

Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, fell to the Taliban on Aug. 14, a day before Kabul.
Riaz Haq said…
#Afghanistan: Can the #Taliban fly abandoned #American #aircraft? More than two dozen MiG-21 fast attack jets left by #Russians fell into Taliban hands....#Pakistani support kept them flying. #US #Pakistan https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/asia/2021/08/27/afghanistan-can-the-taliban-fly-abandoned-us-aircraft/

“What’s sure is that they have at least several Mi-17 of different versions operational,” said Lukas Muller, the author of Wings Over the Hindu Kush, a book on the history of the air war in Afghanistan.

“I bet that this would make the ‘core’ of the Taliban air force in the months to come. It’s relatively easy to maintain and spares are widely available on the open market, as there are non-military versions of this type. Actually, this type was the most common aircraft used in the 1990s civil war, when even very small factions with limited foreign contacts could operate it,” he said.

Even with the Mi-17s, the Taliban would face huge challenges.

“The United States provided at least two aircraft types to the Afghans that were too complex for most, if not all, developing countries to expect to maintain or sustain without long-term or even permanent outside assistance: the C-130 and the UH-60,” Mr Marion toldThe National.

“The Black Hawk was far more complex than the rugged, Soviet/Russian-built Mi-17 with which the Afghans were very familiar; also the Mi-17 was more capable than the UH-60 in the Afghan environment. The Mi-17 was built specifically for Afghanistan,” he said.


-------------

A key moment came after the Soviet withdrawal, Mr Marion said, with the Taliban’s capture of Kandahar airfield in 1994 during the Afghan civil war.

More than two dozen MiG-21 fast attack jets fell into Taliban hands, Mr Marion writes, and the militants forced Colonel Abdul Shafi Noori, commander of Kabul Air Wing maintenance group, to keep the planes airworthy. Pakistani support also kept operations going.

But not all of the Taliban’s “maintainers” and pilots were forced to collaborate.

Mr Marion recalled that one Afghan pilot who flew in the Soviet-backed Afghan air force went on to fly missions for the Taliban then became a shopkeeper after 2001 and then rejoined the Coalition-backed air force to fight the Taliban once more.

Another pilot flew for the short-lived, anti-Taliban Rabbani-Massoud government, which briefly held Kabul during the civil war, then defected.

“I quit from Dostum’s camp because he wants to dismember Afghanistan,” one such pilot told AFP in 1997, a reference to the brief rule of the Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Riaz Haq said…
#Taliban Spokesman to #Indian journalist: “If America announced today that all the Indians who want to go to US should go to Delhi airport in 2-3 hours, you’d see a lacs (hundreds of thousands) of Indians mob Delhi airport”https://youtu.be/_5Fj6i1iCjY via @YouTube #US #Kabul_Airport
Riaz Haq said…
#American #WhiteSupremacist groups praise #Taliban for "victory" over massive #US military power. "These farmers and minimally trained men fought to take back their nation back from globohomo (globalists)" #Afghanistan #Kabul https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/01/politics/far-right-groups-praise-taliban-takeover/index.html

Far-right extremist communities have been invigorated by the events in Afghanistan, "whether by their desire to emulate the Taliban or increasingly violent rhetoric about 'invasions' by displaced Afghans," according to recent analysis from SITE Intelligence Group, an American non-governmental organization that tracks online activity of White supremacist and jihadist organizations.
----------

As the United States-backed government in Afghanistan fell to the Taliban and US troops raced to leave the country, White supremacist and anti-government extremists have expressed admiration for what the Taliban accomplished, a worrying development for US officials who have been grappling with the threat of domestic violent extremism.

That praise has also been coupled with a wave of anti-refugee sentiment from far-right groups, as the US and others rushed to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan by the Biden administration's August 31 deadline.
Several concerning trends have emerged in recent weeks on online platforms commonly used by anti-government, White supremacist and other domestic violent extremist groups, including "framing the activities of the Taliban as a success," and a model for those who believe in the need for a civil war in the US, the head of the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, John Cohen, said on a call Friday with local and state law enforcement, obtained by CNN.

Cohen said on the call that DHS has also analyzed discussions centering on "the great replacement concept" a conspiracy theory that immigrants, in this case the relocation of Afghans to the US, would lead to a loss of control and authority by White Americans.
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 https://youtu.be/AJxfj8kuZlA via @YouTube
Riaz Haq said…
HOW THE TALIBAN EXPLOITED AFGHANISTAN’S HUMAN GEOGRAPHY
ALEC WORSNOP


https://warontherocks.com/2021/09/how-the-taliban-exploited-afghanistans-human-geography/


The Taliban Did This Before

During their initial rise in the 1990s, the Taliban took advantage of Afghanistan’s low population density to conquer large swaths of territory by making deals with local leaders. They then used those areas to launch blitzkrieg-like attacks that overwhelmed the forces of the Northern Alliance, an amalgam of fighters that included units from the (fleeing) central government and Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, and Pashtun militias. Rather than rely on traditional tools such as artillery and armor, the Taliban moved quickly in weaponized pickup trucks (“technicals”) to defeat dug-in defensive positions. Low force-to-space ratios meant that defenders — particularly those without close air support — had significant ground to cover and had to move swiftly and in a coordinated fashion to stand any chance of successfully countering Taliban threats from many directions.

Not only were many of the Taliban’s foes in the 1990s hampered by limited training and mobility. They were often less cohesive than the Taliban due to the fragmented coalition of actors composing the Northern Alliance. As I observed in the 2012 analysis, in conflicts with low force-to-space ratios and limited military capabilities, cohesion is fundamental: In such scenarios, “when forces are not cohesive, they will not move in a coordinated manner to push back breakthroughs and often will be less willing to fight in numerically challenging situations, let alone counterattack under fire.”

When the Taliban faced better-trained and cohesive groups, their progress was often slowed. For example, in March 1995, organized government forces from the Central Corps, reinforced by airlifted troops from Kabul and close air support, turned back the Taliban’s first attempt to surround and seize Herat. Similarly, organized and cohesive government forces decisively withstood assaults on Kabul in 1995. Such instances emphasized the capacity of reasonably prepared troops — especially ones who had air support — to push back the type of mobile warfare used by the Taliban. Even so, in the 1990s, the Taliban’s cohesion and the sheer scale of their offensives overwhelmed the relatively limited groups of well-prepared defenders in the Northern Alliance.

How Things Went From Bad to Worse

The events of the past weeks share many similarities with the Taliban’s initial rise to power over two decades ago and bore out key aspects of what my 2012 analysis suggested might happen. In fact, the Afghan security forces of 2021 were generally worse off than anti-Taliban forces were in the 1990s. While the density and distribution of Afghanistan’s population have not changed significantly since then, in 2021 — unlike in the 1990s — the Taliban enjoyed a presence throughout the country. That allowed them to pressure the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in multiple locations simultaneously. As a result, the Afghan military had to try to cover large swaths of territory, move quickly to respond to the Taliban’s political and military threats, and attempt to hold its own in pitched battles and counterattacks.

The Afghan security forces were not up to these tasks. The Taliban took a host of provincial capitals and Kabul itself in a matter of days, more quickly than even the most pessimistic, publicly available estimates predicted. The Afghan military lacked the capacity and cohesion required to stand firm and defend against fast-moving offensives across many fronts simultaneously. It had long been clear that it was an anemic force which was ill-prepared to take on a major challenge in a coherent and steadfast fashion. As many have noted, since summer 2013, when Afghan forces assumed the lead responsibility for security in the country, things got worse and worse. By 2021, the Afghan military was poorly organized, lacked the ability to provision and pay its soldiers consistently, and was inadequately trained.
Riaz Haq said…
Thousands of #Afghans refugees streaming into #Pakistan By @AJLabs https://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2021/afghanistan-refugees-karachi/index.html


https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1433497419270950914?s=20

Karachi, Pakistan - As the world watched the frantic evacuations from Kabul’s airport, thousands of people were making their way to Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan on foot and in any vehicles they could find, far from the glare of news cameras.

Officially, the border is closed to all except those with valid paperwork for medical reasons, work or to see family on either side.

Yet, thousands of Afghans have streamed through the Spin Boldak border crossing in Afghanistan’s southeastern Kandahar province into the Pakistani town of Chaman.

Local sources say that, for weeks, up to 5,000 Afghans had been crossing daily until August 15, the day the Taliban took control of Kabul; that number has since doubled.

Today, Pakistan is home to more than 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, many of whom entered the country some 40 years ago, after the Soviet invasion in 1979.

Hundreds of thousands more joined them after the US invasion in 2001.

By 2002, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) counted three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Many returned to Afghanistan and the numbers dropped until the US troop withdrawal began this year.

Pakistan’s government insists it is unprepared for a refugee influx and is considering options for how best to manage the new arrivals.

After negotiating the crossing, most refugees make their way to Pakistan’s main urban centres, seeking shelter, safety and, in some instances, the means for an onward journey.

In a bustling corner of Karachi, a sprawling metropolis of more than 20 million people in southern Pakistan, a sizable Afghan community has lived for decades.

Many of them came as refugees in the 1980s.

Behind the narrow, broken streets near the city’s largest bus terminal, the neighbourhood is covered with low-rise apartment complexes, the roads choked with motorcycles and bicycles.

In the corner of one such apartment compound, there are several homes with their doors wide open.

A group of men sits on the stoop as young boys play in the concrete yard.

Some of them have just made their way from Afghanistan. They had to brave violence and risk being turned away or arrested at security checkpoints as they fled a country in the throes of transition.

It is a journey some have endured before.

This is the second time they become refugees. Some, who have refugee ID cards issued by the Pakistani government, know they will have certain rights and protections guaranteed in their host country.

But others have entered without any paperwork at all. Here are some of their stories.


Riaz Haq said…
Thousands of #Afghans refugees streaming into #Pakistan By @AJLabs https://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2021/afghanistan-refugees-karachi/index.html


https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1433497419270950914?s=20

Karachi, Pakistan - As the world watched the frantic evacuations from Kabul’s airport, thousands of people were making their way to Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan on foot and in any vehicles they could find, far from the glare of news cameras.

Officially, the border is closed to all except those with valid paperwork for medical reasons, work or to see family on either side.

Yet, thousands of Afghans have streamed through the Spin Boldak border crossing in Afghanistan’s southeastern Kandahar province into the Pakistani town of Chaman.

Local sources say that, for weeks, up to 5,000 Afghans had been crossing daily until August 15, the day the Taliban took control of Kabul; that number has since doubled.

Today, Pakistan is home to more than 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, many of whom entered the country some 40 years ago, after the Soviet invasion in 1979.

Hundreds of thousands more joined them after the US invasion in 2001.

By 2002, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) counted three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Many returned to Afghanistan and the numbers dropped until the US troop withdrawal began this year.

Pakistan’s government insists it is unprepared for a refugee influx and is considering options for how best to manage the new arrivals.

After negotiating the crossing, most refugees make their way to Pakistan’s main urban centres, seeking shelter, safety and, in some instances, the means for an onward journey.

In a bustling corner of Karachi, a sprawling metropolis of more than 20 million people in southern Pakistan, a sizable Afghan community has lived for decades.

Many of them came as refugees in the 1980s.

Behind the narrow, broken streets near the city’s largest bus terminal, the neighbourhood is covered with low-rise apartment complexes, the roads choked with motorcycles and bicycles.

In the corner of one such apartment compound, there are several homes with their doors wide open.

A group of men sits on the stoop as young boys play in the concrete yard.

Some of them have just made their way from Afghanistan. They had to brave violence and risk being turned away or arrested at security checkpoints as they fled a country in the throes of transition.

It is a journey some have endured before.

This is the second time they become refugees. Some, who have refugee ID cards issued by the Pakistani government, know they will have certain rights and protections guaranteed in their host country.

But others have entered without any paperwork at all. Here are some of their stories.


Riaz Haq said…
#British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace: "It is obvious that Britain is not a superpower. But a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower either. It is certainly not a global force" #USA #Afghanistan #superpower https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/britain-is-not-a-superpower-an-interview-with-ben-wallace

Britain’s 2007 decision to build and deploy two aircraft carriers — now accompanying the Americans in the Pacific — has been seen by many in the military as an absurd overstretch from a country in denial about still being a global power. Wallace sees it differently. ‘I think it really goes to what the definition of what a global power is,’ he says. ‘It is obvious that Britain is not a superpower. But a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower either. It is certainly not a global force, it’s just a big power.’

Britain, meanwhile, can act with others. ‘I take the view that the future of foreign policy around the world will involve more bilateral than trilateral alliances depending on the problems we face. So, West Africa may be a more French/British thing, East Africa may be the same.

‘Britain hasn’t been able to field a mass army for 50 years — if not longer.’ At the back end of the Cold War, he says, he was in the British Army of the Rhine. 'It was always part of a massive international effort — so I think our defence paper is in exactly the right space.’ Britain, he says, still has ‘a huge range of tools at our disposal: from soft to hard power, economic power, scientific power and cultural power’.

Military intervention will still play a role. ‘Some countries in Africa are on the edge of being failed states.’ Stopping them from collapsing, he says, could stave off other conflicts. ‘What you need is an armed forces that can help the resilience of the [African] governments so things don’t get so acute that you end up having a proper fight,’ he says. ‘Fundamentally, I think that is what we need to be doing in the world.’ An important question is whether the intervention-weary public would be so keen for British forces to shore up African governments.

The United Nations, Wallace says, has been noticeable by its absence in Afghanistan and elsewhere. ‘If the UN isn’t for helping failed states, then what is it for?’ The question also arises in West Africa. ‘The anti-corruption, the deradicalisation, the education, all of the things the UN signed up to in the Algeria agreement haven’t been delivered. You don’t stop terrorism and security unless you deal with the other stuff.’

Difficult questions are also facing Europe. ‘We have risen to America’s challenge: to spend more on defence. I think the question is actually for Europe: is Europe prepared to put its money where its mouth is? To be fair to Donald Trump, he was straight as a die on that. There’s a difference between taking America for granted and depending on America. I think historically we have taken America for granted and that means we now need to step up to invest. The Prime Minister has made the biggest investment since the Cold War and we will continue to do that. Let’s hear what the others do.’

The other issue is staying power. ‘The question for the West — whether it is Ukraine, whether it is the South China Sea or upholding international laws — is resolve. That is the question: do we have resolve?’ Like Tony Blair, he dislikes the phrase ‘forever war’. ‘I think standing up for the values you believe in, standing up to protect your interests, is a forever commitment. It’s unending — so be prepared.’

He recently visited the Korean War memorial in Seoul, which is marked by the words ‘Freedom is not free’. ‘That is absolutely right — freedom is not free. Of course, we hope that standing up for it doesn’t involve the lives of our men and women. But when your adversary is constantly challenging you, then you have to constantly stand up for what you believe and constantly enable the defence of it. And that will be forever.’
Riaz Haq said…
Can the IRGC-Taliban honeymoon continue? (Part 2

https://www.mei.edu/publications/can-irgc-taliban-honeymoon-continue-part-2


In the years leading up to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban had strained relations with Iran. Tensions between the two sides escalated to the point that the Iranian government and the Quds Force actually assisted American forces during the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

Part of this cooperation was rooted in the enmity between Iran and the Taliban at that time, and part was rooted in Tehran's fear of a confrontation with the United States in the months following the attacks of 9/11, especially considering that Washington would view Iran's non-cooperation as a hostile act. However, after Iran was branded part of the "axis of evil" and the subsequent invasion of Iraq by American forces, Tehran's strategy in the region gradually changed. The basis of the new strategy was that if the Americans were tranquil on Iran's eastern and western borders, they might put an invasion of the country on the agenda. To prevent this from happening, the Quds Force was determined to help anti-American militia forces cause problems for and ramp up pressure on U.S. troops in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. This strategy found more advocates within the Iranian regime when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005.

Cause for cooperation

Following the rise of Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan in 2015, Tehran found another justification to cooperate with the Taliban: containing ISKP jihadists whom Iran viewed as a threat against its borders. Following this cooperation, Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was quoted in July 2016 as saying that the group was "establishing new relations with Tehran."

In late 2018, Iran acknowledged for the first time that it was hosting Taliban envoys for bilateral talks. Tehran, however, stressed that the Afghan government was aware of the meeting and that the purpose of the talks was to "resolve security problems in Afghanistan." In late January 2021, another delegation of the Taliban, led by Mullah Baradar Akhund, political deputy and chief of the Taliban’s diplomatic office in Qatar, went to Tehran, which was widely reported in Iranian media.

The most recent official visit of a high-ranking Taliban delegation to Tehran took place on July 7, 2021, when they were hosted at a meeting organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the future of Afghanistan. According to the Foreign Ministry, in addition to the Taliban, three other Afghan delegations, including a few Kabul officials, were also present at the talks.

The recent official negotiations between Iran and the Taliban, initiated by Hassan Rouhani's administration, were followed by the approval of the U.S. and Afghan governments. In fact, after the Taliban delegation's visit to Tehran, U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price said, "What Iran is trying to do, or is in the process of trying to do by hosting this meeting, may well be constructive." At the same time, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the outcome of the meeting between Afghan politicians and Taliban representatives in Tehran.

But apart from formal diplomatic relations — which are also likely to continue under Ebrahim Raisi's administration — the most important relations between Iran and the Taliban have always been unofficial, i.e. through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force. These relations have been criticized by both American and Afghan authorities.
Riaz Haq said…
#Tech #economy needs rare earths (#Lithium), and #Afghanistan has got a lot of them. "The #Chinese and the #Pakistanis and the #Russians are very much interested. And China has been dominating the critical, rare strategic metals market for the last decades"https://www.marketplace.org/2021/09/03/afghanistan-has-minerals-tech-economy-needs/

Ryssdal: All right, so make the turn here toward geopolitics for me, and I realize that’s not necessarily your specialty. But if the United States and the U.K. and most of Europe is not in the foreseeable future going to have business dealings with Afghanistan, as it’s run by the Taliban, but the Chinese are and the Russians might, that’s a balance of power thing.

Pitron: The Chinese and the Pakistanis and the Russians are very much interested. And China has been dominating the critical, rare strategic metals market for the last decades. So the fact that this potential is available, at least potentially to the Chinese, shows that after the 19th century, which was dominated by the English with the coal industry, and the 20th century, which was dominated by the Americans, thanks to their domination of the oil industry, then we’re moving to an age of where the Chinese are already controlling the metals industry for the [inaudible] energy revolution.

---------------

The United States has pulled out of Afghanistan. But 11 years ago, Pentagon officials and American geologists discovered nearly $1 trillion in mineral deposits there, including elements and metals that are needed to power the growing tech economy. Lithium, for instance, is key material in making batteries for cellphones, laptops and electric vehicles. Getting those minerals out of the ground and building an industry around them is another issue in a country with deep political and economic instability.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Guillaume Pitron, a French journalist and author of “The Rare Metals War: The Dark Side of Clean Energy and Digital Technologies,” about the geopolitics of rare materials. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Guillaume Pitron: [Afghanistan] is said to be a country where you can find lots of copper, lots of lithium, rare earths elements, platinum, bauxite and other resources of this kind.

Kai Ryssdal: And the net worth, as it were, of those things even in the ground, before we get to actually getting them out of the ground in Afghanistan, the thing that makes it dynamic right now, is that we more than ever depend on those minerals — the lithium and the cobalt and all of that — for batteries and all of the things we need for this economy right now.



Pitron: The energy transition is a metallic transition. we would like to do away with oil and coal. But on the other side, we’ll have to tap into these minerals. And actually, the International Energy Agency, recently this year, published a report saying that our needs for these commodities will explode in the next decades for making the green revolution possible. And Afghanistan has these resources.
Riaz Haq said…
Afghanistan is rich in resources like copper, gold, oil, natural gas, uranium, bauxite, coal, iron ore, rare earths, lithium, chromium, lead, zinc, gemstones, talc, sulphur, travertine, gypsum and marble.



https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/what-are-afghanistans-untapped-minerals-resources-2021-08-19/


Returning to power in Afghanistan after a 20-year absence, the Taliban have regained control of natural resources that a former mines minister of the country once said could be worth up to $3 trillion.

That estimate was made toward the end of the last commodities supercycle in 2010 and could be worth even more now, after a global economic recovery from the coronavirus shock sent prices for everything from copper to lithium soaring this year.

Afghanistan is rich in resources like copper, gold, oil, natural gas, uranium, bauxite, coal, iron ore, rare earths, lithium, chromium, lead, zinc, gemstones, talc, sulphur, travertine, gypsum and marble.

Below is a breakdown of some of Afghanistan's key resources, as estimated by the country's mining ministry and the U.S. government, as well as their potential monetary value for the war-ravaged Afghan economy if security challenges can be overcome.


COPPER

A 2019 report by Afghanistan's Ministry of Mines and Petroleum put the country's copper resource at almost 30 million tonnes.

This giant asset is still to be developed but the 11.08 million tonnes of copper MCC estimates it to hold would be worth over $100 billion at current London Metal Exchange prices .

OTHER METALS The 2019 report also said Afghanistan had more than 2.2 billion tonnes of steelmaking raw material iron ore, worth over $350 billion at current market prices.

Gold resources were much more modest at an estimated 2,700 kg, worth almost $170 million, while the Afghan ministry also said base metals aluminium, tin, lead and zinc were "located in multiple areas of the country."


LITHIUM AND RARE EARTHS

An internal U.S Department of Defense memo in 2010 reportedly described Afghanistan as "the Saudi Arabia of lithium," meaning it could be as crucial for global supply of the battery metal as the Middle Eastern country is for crude oil.

The comparison was made at a time lithium was already widely used in batteries for electronics devices but before it had become apparent how much lithium would be needed for electric vehicle (EV) batteries and the world's low-carbon transition.

A 2017/18 report from the U.S. Geological Survey notes Afghanistan has deposits of spodumene, a lithium-bearing mineral, but does not provide tonnage estimates, while the 2019 Afghan report makes no mention of lithium at all.

The 2019 mines ministry report does, however, say Afghanistan holds 1.4 million tonnes of rare earth minerals, a group of 17 elements prized for their applications in consumer electronics, as well as in military equipment.

OIL & GAS

With hydrocarbon-rich Iran and Turkmenistan to its west, Afghanistan harbours around 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil, 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and another 500 million barrels of natural gas liquids.

That's according to the 2019 Afghan report, which cited a joint U.S.-Afghan assessment, and implies a value of $107 billion for the crude oil alone at current market prices.

"Most of the undiscovered crude oil is in the Afghan-Tajik Basin and most of the undiscovered natural gas is in the Amu Darya Basin," the report said.


GEMSTONES

Afghanistan has historically been a major source of lapis lazuli, a deep blue, semi-precious stone that has been mined in the country's northern Badakhshan province for thousands of years, as well as other gemstones such as rubies and emeralds.

The finest grades of lapis lazuli can fetch up to $150 per carat, according to the 2019 Afghan report, which notes, however, that the majority of gemstones mined in the country leave the country illegally, mostly to Peshawar in Pakistan, denying Afghanistan vital revenue.
Riaz Haq said…

For some Western powers hoping to influence the new Taliban government, there are hopes that Pakistan could play a role as a mediator.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-58443839

The country has a unique relationship with Afghanistan. They share a 2,570km (1,600 mile) border. They are significant trading partners. There are numerous cultural, ethnic and religious connections. The former Afghan leader Hamid Karzai once described the two countries as "inseparable brothers".

But for some capitals queuing up to revive their relationship with Islamabad, there are mixed feelings.

Pakistan has not been seen by all as a firm ally in the battle against jihadist terrorism. It has long been accused by many in the United States and elsewhere of providing support for the Taliban, something it denies.

Yet diplomats in the West want to persuade the Taliban to allow their nationals to leave Afghanistan, to let humanitarian aid in and to govern moderately. And that means they need to talk to countries like Pakistan and others in the region.

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What is Pakistan worried about?


Pakistan's historic support for the Taliban does not, however, mean it is entirely relaxed about the group's takeover in Kabul. Pakistanis have suffered hugely over the years at the hands of Islamist terror groups launching attacks over the border from Afghanistan.

Pakistan has a huge interest in ensuring the new government in Kabul cracks down on groups like Al Qaeda and the local Islamic State offshoot - ISIS-K. That means Pakistan has an interest in the Taliban acting firmly and not allowing Afghanistan to descend into an ungoverned space.

The other great concern of Pakistan is a refugee crisis. The country already has about three million Afghan refugees from previous wars and, with its ravaged economy, it cannot afford to support any more.

Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK, Moazzam Ahmad Khan, told the BBC Today programme: "We don't really have the capacity to take more refugees in and that's why we're suggesting - and requesting - that let's sit down together and work on the possibility of avoiding that eventuality."

What does this mean for relations with West?
Pakistan's relations with the West are not great.

Perhaps the poorest are with the United States. Joe Biden has refused even to call Prime Minister Khan since he became president.

Lt Gen HR McMaster, the former US National Security Adviser, told a Policy Exchange seminar this week that Pakistan should be treated as a "pariah state" if it did not stop its support for jihadi groups.

"We have to stop pretending that Pakistan is a partner," he said. "Pakistan has been acting as an enemy nation against us by organising, training and equipping these forces and by continuing to use jihadist terrorist organisations as an arm of their foreign policy."

But that American view has not stopped other Western powers knocking on Pakistan's door. In recent days, foreign ministers from Britain and Germany have visited Islamabad. Italy's will go soon.

Diplomats believe - or at least hope - that Pakistan still holds some sway over the Taliban. They also fear that shunning Pakistan risks encouraging the country even further into the warm embrace of China.

The question of course is whether Pakistan really can influence the Taliban.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, widely tipped to be the leader of the new government, has in the past spent time in Pakistani detention. How warm he remains towards his former gaolers remains to be seen.
Riaz Haq said…
The future of Silicon Valley may lie in the mountains of Afghanistan


https://venturebeat.com/2014/03/20/lithium-afghanistan/

United States Geological Survey teams discovered one of the world’s largest untapped reserves of lithium there six years ago (in 2008). The USGS was scouting the volatile country at the behest of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations. Lithium is a soft metal used to make the lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries essential for powering desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. And increasingly, electric cars like Tesla’s.

The vast discovery could very well propel Afghanistan — a war-ravaged land with a population of 31 million largely uneducated Pashtuns and Tajiks, and whose primary exports today are opium, hashish, and marijuana — into becoming the world’s next “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” according to an internal Pentagon memo cited by the New York Times.

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Depending on who you talk to, the current lithium global reserves are adequate for at least another generation of lithium-ion battery manufacturers to produce them.

But not everybody thinks so, and some say the light metal compound may someday run dry. That could in turn spell trouble for any company whose business depends on light and portable mobile electronics — unless someone comes up with an alternative to lithium batteries before then.

The experts VentureBeat interviewed pointed to sharp year-on-year increases in the demand for lithium. That’s putting heavy pressure on existing stockpiles.

According to Lithium Americas, a Canadian lithium-mining company with significant business interests in Argentina, lithium demand will more than double in the next 10 years, while lithium prices have nearly quadrupled during the same timeframe.

Tesla, for its part, is in the process of investing up to $5 billion to build its own lithium-ion Gigafactory in Texas, a plant capable of churning out 500,000 expensive battery packs a year by 2020 for its line of zero-emission, all-electric cars.

A Tesla spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

As a potential source to feed that demand, enter Afghanistan.

“At some point, if present trends continue, demand [for lithium] will outstrip the supply. And again, at some point, the market for lithium-ion could get so big that it actually affects the supply chain,” said Donald R. Sadoway, a professor of the Materials Chemistry Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT.

Looking at Afghanistan, Sadoway says the war-ravaged nation, which has no effective mining infrastructure in place, may well be attractive to the world’s mining outfits.

“In this regard,” Sadoway, one of the world’s foremost experts on energy sources, says, “the deposits in Afghanistan could be important.”

Andrew Chung, a venture capitalist with Khosla Ventures in Silicon Valley who has invested in multiple startups producing alternative batteries, says lithium-ion batteries are limited in their lifetime cycles, scalability, and cost. Despite this, Chung says, he can understand how the untapped reserves of Afghan lithium are now an increasing focus.

“It is an issue of the supply chain, whether it’s Afghanistan or other [countries]. There is a finite supply, and lithium-ion will continue to be the [power] choice for the next decade,” Chung said.

Some of the Valley’s biggest and most powerful tech companies either declined to comment for this story or never returned calls. But they didn’t deny the importance of lithium-ion batteries.
Riaz Haq said…
#America's ground war in #Afghanistan is over. Now it’s the #USNavy’s turn. The lack of #US-controlled airfields near Afghanistan could mean more planes taking off from #American #aircraftcarrier decks at sea. #Pakistan https://politi.co/3zIQdUE via @politico

Worried about the reemergence of ISIS-K, or an emboldened al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Biden administration has pledged to continue to launch “over the horizon” airstrikes from drones and manned aircraft. But it has yet to detail a plan for how those aircraft will collect intelligence on targets, or conduct sustained missions from such great distances.

Air Force pilots flying from the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar or Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates have for years hit targets in Afghanistan, but they first have to wind their way through the Gulf around Iran, and back up through Pakistan, refueling at least once and often spending hours in the air before circling over a target.

“Land-based fighters in Qatar or Kuwait may not have the time on station to do close-air support missions for special operations forces,” said Bryan Clark, a former Navy officer now at the Hudson Institute. He said that could lead to the use of more long-loitering drones, and Navy aircraft flown from the North Arabian Sea.

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That tension is on full display now. The Japan-based aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan flew F/A-18 Hornets over Kabul during the evacuation operation last month, and remains in the North Arabian Sea alongside the USS Iwo Jima, which launched the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit into Kabul at the same time.

For decades, the U.S. has based an aircraft carrier in Japan to project U.S. power in the Pacific on a consistent basis. The call to send the Reagan to the Middle East this spring raised hackles among China hawks as it left the entire Pacific region without a fully operational aircraft carrier for the entire summer.

Reagan's absence was perhaps felt most acutely in June, when a large Russian naval task force — the biggest since the end of the Cold War, according to Moscow — edged uncomfortably close to Hawaii, leading the U.S. to scramble F-22s from Pearl Harbor to intercept bombers accompanying the flotilla.

At the time, the Reagan was in the Indian Ocean heading for its Afghanistan mission, and the USS Carl Vinson was still undergoing predeployment drills near Hawaii, practicing launching F-35s for the first time.

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“They were supposed to remain in the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic, but they ended up spending most of their deployment in the Middle East,” 2nd Fleet commander Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis told reporters when Eisenhower finally made it home in July.

“The Navy needs to get out from under that weight” of grinding deployments to the Middle East, Bryan Clark said. The Reagan will “likely remain there until relieved since the U.S. is now mounting counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and [drones] may not work for all situations.”
But those deployments mean wear and tear on crews and ships, and also require pulling assets from the Pacific, where the Biden administration says Washington’s true strategic interests lie.

That tension is on full display now. The Japan-based aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan flew F/A-18 Hornets over Kabul during the evacuation operation last month, and remains in the North Arabian Sea alongside the USS Iwo Jima, which launched the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit into Kabul at the same time.


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It won’t just be manned aircraft pulled into whatever continuing surveillance and strike missions deemed necessary by the Biden administration, however. Drones will undoubtedly play a significant role, and the relatively limited number of advanced, long-loitering aircraft available at any given time could also pull from the Indo-Pacific Command.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan seizes chance to be #Europe’s best buddy in #Afghan crisis. Foreign ministers of #Germany, the #Netherlands and the #UK all visited #Islamabad. They made promises of prompt cash to Pakistani coffers for its assistance in the #humanitarian crisis https://www.politico.eu/article/afghanistan-pakistan-europe-crisis-refugees-trade/

Germany's Ambassador to Pakistan Bernhard Schlagheck said it would not have been possible to fly out German and Dutch staff without Islamabad's assistance, while Pakistan also received friendly calls from EU Council President Charles Michel, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, the Austrians, and the Slovenes, who currently hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

This newfound affection for Pakistan is a significant shift in the diplomatic tides from this spring when the EU had eyes only for Pakistan's arch-enemy India. In April, the EU committed to an Indo-Pacific strategy that is meant to see increased European cooperation with India against (Pakistan's ally) China. In May, Brussels also launched free-trade talks with New Delhi.

The Taliban's return in Kabul now gives Pakistan a prime opportunity to put itself back in the game. It is using the attention to try to rebrand its image internationally, and leverage its position as the main destination for Afghan refugees to exact concessions for its own priorities like economic aid, trade incentives, freer travel to Europe, and diplomatic support for the disputed region of Kashmir.

The overtures come at a crucial time, as both Pakistan and Europe are contending with the U.S.'s retreat from the region. Washington has long been Pakistan's chief supplier of arms and aid as it sought Pakistan's help in Afghanistan, but as that relationship soured — especially as Pakistan provided aid to the Afghan Taliban even as the group targeted U.S. forces — Islamabad is looking to invest in other relationships. Europe, which was caught flat-footed by the U.S.'s decision to withdraw, must now secure its own interests in the region without American help.

Friends in need
Before the Afghan crisis, Pakistan was not popular in Brussels. The conservative Islamic country was routinely bashed for its human rights record and its duplicitous conduct in Afghanistan, where it simultaneously supported both NATO and the Taliban forces. While the EU is a major trading partner for Pakistan, the South Asian country is way down the EU's priority list.

But all that has changed since the Taliban took over Afghanistan last month, leaving European countries desperate to repatriate their citizens.


Islamabad has underlined its role in helping European and foreign officials leave Kabul, including 294 Dutch citizens, 201 Belgians, 216 Italians, and 273 Danes. In addition, Pakistan is also helping evacuate more than 4,000 Afghan nationals who worked with the U.S. and allied forces in Kabul. The country was able to do so because of its strong ties to the Taliban, which allowed it to continue flights and keep its embassy open, even as most countries were scrambling to leave the country.

"We have tremendous admiration and respect for Pakistan and we would like to reiterate our gratitude," Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said at a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was in the capital the next day, announced that the U.K. was sending teams to Afghanistan's neighbors, including Pakistan, to help process arrivals from Afghanistan and repatriate them to the U.K. He also announced that the U.K. was immediately sending £30 million to Afghanistan's neighbors, Pakistan chief among them, to help them deal with the humanitarian crisis.

"Pakistan is a vital partner for the U.K." Raab said.
Riaz Haq said…
"The evidence is inadequate to justify the notion that Pakistan acted as a spoiler to US efforts in Afghanistan, nor did it need to act as one even if it had so desired."

https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/southasiasource/the-us-pakistan-relationship-in-a-new-afghanistan/

Now that the American venture into Afghanistan is coming to be seen by some as a serious strategic failure, there is a strong temptation for US policymakers to find something, or someone, to blame. Just as Cambodia was the scapegoat for a botched war in Vietnam, neighboring countries to the Afghan conflict present a convenient target. The objective of this piece is not to assign blame on any one party or country for recent developments in Afghanistan, but to shed light on some important gaps in ongoing coverage of the issue.

Pakistan has been seen and treated as an unreliable ally by the United States in the War on Terror over the last two decades. However, channeling frustration and anger towards Pakistan now would be another strategic misstep at this crucial point in time for the region. Since taking office, President Biden has yet to speak to his Pakistani counterpart, Prime Minister Imran Khan. This cold shoulder has not gone unnoticed in Islamabad. Pakistan nonetheless has decided to move on clear-eyed with its strategy to stabilize Afghanistan. Herein lies the problem: the less that Washington engages with Pakistan, the more disconnected it will be from the region and the weaker its influence will be on the situation’s outcome. Any space that the United States cedes, whether in its relationship with a new Afghan government or with Pakistan, will be filled chiefly by China, and to some extent Iran and Russia.

Furthermore, US policymakers have turned a blind eye to the negative impact of an unstable Afghanistan on Pakistan. The country has lost approximately 83,000 civilians in the War on Terror, and estimates show that it has cost Pakistan’s economy $126 billion dollars. In contrast, the much touted $6 billion dollars in aid it has received from Washington is seen as a pittance by Pakistani civilians and policy makers alike. Between 1995 and 2020, over 500 suicide bomb attacks shook Pakistani cities, drastically reducing both the security environment and the average Pakistani’s quality of life. However, the armed forces demonstrated remarkable resilience in tackling this issue, greatly reducing the number of attacks and clearing the former FATA from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The return of the Afghan Taliban is not a boon for Islamabad—it puts at serious risk the hard-fought stability that Pakistan has achieved in recent years.

What has largely evaded media coverage is the construction of a massive border fence along Pakistan’s formerly porous border with Afghanistan, at a cost of over $500 million USD. The fence, now 90% complete, stretches along the whole Pak-Afghan border, spanning the equivalent distance from New York to Denver. The border boasts a double-barbed wire fence, infrared cameras, and an additional 1,000 forts along the frontier. The “safe haven” argument is thus past its expiration date: there is no longer anarchic freedom of movement between Pakistan and Afghanistan as commonly described.

At present, there are about 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan. There are about another 1.5 million unregistered Afghan refugees there as well, in a country with a fragile economy and strained public infrastructure. In a recent interview with the BBC, British General Sir Nick Carter acknowledged that with the large influx of refugees, it was nearly impossible for Pakistan to be able to identify Taliban sympathizers from among the throngs of displaced Afghans. Indications to the contrary may be seen more as incompetence rather than nefarious intentions.

Riaz Haq said…
"IN THEIR VERY first exchange after 9/11, Pakistan’s most senior leaders urged their American counterparts not to invade Afghanistan. Instead, they said, consider targeted action against al-Qaeda" #Afghanistan #US #Pakistan @LodhiMaleeha @P_Musharraf https://www.economist.com/by-invitation/2021/09/09/maleeha-lodhi-on-the-tortured-pakistani-american-relationship

This By-invitation commentary is part of a series by global thinkers on the future of American power, examining the forces shaping the country's global standing. Read more here.

IN THEIR VERY first exchange after 9/11, Pakistan’s most senior leaders urged their American counterparts not to invade Afghanistan. Instead, they said, consider targeted action against al-Qaeda. In several high-level meetings that I attended then as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Pakistani officials gave warning that military action would not work. America should distinguish between al-Qaeda, the group responsible for the terror attacks, and the Taliban, who needed to be engaged.
Riaz Haq said…
Taliban rolls out red carpet to China's Belt and Road Initiative - Nikkei Asia


https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Afghanistan-turmoil/Taliban-rolls-out-red-carpet-to-China-s-Belt-and-Road-Initiative

KARACHI -- With the U.S. departed in disarray, Afghanistan's newly ensconced Taliban regime is looking to China for major investments in the coming six months, but experts expect Beijing to tread a very cautious line.

Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, said earlier this week that the new government wants to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, the flagship $50 billion Pakistan component of China's Belt and Road Initiative.

A source with close links to the Taliban told Nikkei Asia on condition of anonymity that China has been courting the Taliban since 2018 on possible projects in Afghanistan. "There are verbal agreements between Beijing and Taliban about investments," he said. "Once the Taliban government gains global recognition, China will start building infrastructure projects in war-torn Afghanistan."

On Wednesday, a virtual meeting of the foreign ministers of Afghanistan's neighbors -- China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan -- was hosted by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister.

"The situation in Afghanistan remains complex and fluid," Qureshi later tweeted. "We hope the political situation stabilizes leading to normalcy soon. The new reality requires us to discard old lenses, develop new insights and proceed with a realistic, pragmatic approach," he said.

During the meeting, China promised emergency aid of $31 million to Afghanistan, including grain, winter supplies, vaccines and medicines. "What China can do now is maintain necessary contacts with the Taliban in the fields of normal economic activities and people-to-people exchanges," reported Global Times, Beijing's English-language mouthpiece.

Andrew Small, a senior trans-Atlantic fellow with the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund, believes the Taliban's immediate investment requests give China leverage. Beijing will provide some immediate economic support, but proceed to greater involvement more gingerly.

"Beijing will be happy to dangle promises and engage in talks on the BRI and CPEC extensions, but will not move ahead with anything on the ground until they are confident of political and security conditions," Small told Nikkei.

Experts note the Taliban's limited investor choices. "It is to be expected that China would be willing to help the Taliban government after the U.S. pulled out of a region that is too important for China to leave alone," Hasaan Khawar, a public policy analyst in Islamabad, told Nikkei.

China is well aware of Afghanistan's vast mineral resources that include the Mes Aynak copper mine, which is reputed to be the second-largest in the world in terms of reserved volume. China Metallurgical Group bought the exploration lease on the massive deposit in 2008 for $3 billion, but work has been stalled for more than a decade because of security concerns. The idle mine is a salutary reminder to China of how big investments can easily fail in such an unstable setting.

"Copper is essential for electric wiring, electronic products, motors and many other products manufactured in China," Jeremy Garlick, assistant professor of international relations at the University of Economics in Prague, told Nikkei. "The Chinese will not rush to put their heads in the lion's mouth -- I would expect them to weigh any decision to get more deeply involved in Afghanistan carefully."

The problem of militancy and the use of Afghan soil as a launchpad for global terrorism is the biggest concern for the global community, including China. Experts believe that unless the Taliban controls this problem, China will be unable to invest -- however much it wants to.

Riaz Haq said…
#China, #Pakistan offer aid to #Taliban as West hesitates. Both of them have already sent planeloads of supplies to the country and are willing to send more. Joining #CPEC offers a pathway to economic viability for #Afghanistan. https://www.axios.com/china-pakistan-afhganistan-aid-b9a14fce-e092-48b6-b7dc-4cdc006fc15d.html?utm_campaign=organic&utm_medium=socialshare&utm_source=twitter


As Western nations debate how best to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan without enriching the Taliban, China and Pakistan have already sent planeloads of supplies to the country and are willing to send more, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Afghanistan is mired in a humanitarian and economic crisis, and China and Pakistan's willingness to help could draw Afghanistan closer into those countries' orbits.

State of play: Both China and Pakistan have signaled a willingness to increase their engagement with Afghanistan, Reuters noted.

China announced last week that it intends to send $31 million worth of grain, winter supplies medicine, and 3 million COVID-19 vaccines, Al Jazeera reported.
Meanwhile Pakistan last week sent a shipment of supplies, including cooking oil and medicine, while its foreign minister called for Afghanistan's assets to be unfrozen, according to Reuters.
The big picture: The United Nations Development Programme warned last week that Afghanistan is approaching universal poverty, and the Afghani currency has plummeted in value since the Taliban took power last month.

The Biden administration froze access to Afghanistan's central bank reserves, and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have suspended funding in the country.
Between the lines: The Taliban victory is a strategic win for Pakistan, which long assisted the group and harbored its leaders.

China has some concerns about the group's rise to power but also sees economic opportunity in the form of Afghanistan's $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits, Bloomberg reported.
“China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said recently, according to NBC News. “It is ready to invest and rebuild our country.”
It is possible that Afghanistan will join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

"The new administration in Kabul would also be receptive to this and they are keen on it," Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a Pakistani senator and former chairman of the China-Pakistan Institute, told Reuters.
China's Belt and Road initiative also offers a pathway to "economic viability," Reuters noted.
Riaz Haq said…
The global computer chips shortage that began worsening late last year has disrupted supply chains around the world, snarling production of everything from cars to phones to household appliances. And the rare earth industry is watching closely.

https://qz.com/2012722/rare-earth-industry-looks-at-global-chips-shortage-for-lessons/

Both chips and rare earths form critical supply chains that power the high-tech economy, and are the subject of intense scrutiny by governments looking to shore up supplies as a matter of national security. Rare earths are a group of 17 metals crucial to the manufacturing of high-tech products.

At MP Materials, the operator of the only active rare earths mine in the US, executives and staffers are carefully studying the company’s own supply chain for weaknesses and chokepoints, in part motivated by the situation surrounding the prolonged chips shortfall. If a lack of chips has idled auto plants from India to Canada, what can be done to minimize the risk that a dearth of rare earth products will disrupt wind turbine and electric vehicle battery manufacturers?

Ryan Corbett, CFO of MP, said the chips crunch has prompted major manufacturers to rethink “the last 50 years of just-in-time manufacturing.”

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Similarly, a shortage of rare earth magnets, would risk throwing manufacturing processes of critical components of climate economy products like electric vehicles and wind turbines into disarray.

And even if supply disruptions were temporary—say, a short-term export ban or a months-long shutdown of a major rare earths mine and processing facility due to financial constraints—the impact on prices, demand, production, and capacity could extend years beyond the actual period of disruption. That’s according to a study published in January by researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, who modeled the effects of different disruptions like mine closures and natural disasters on the global rare earth market.

Though the researchers focused on modeling hypothetical disruptions in the rare earth industry, there are certain parallels with the ongoing turmoil in the semiconductor sector.

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan commercial passenger flight takes off from #Kabul for #Islamabad, marking the start of first scheduled #international flight operations from #Afghanistan -Reuters witness https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistan-commercial-passenger-flight-takes-off-kabul-reuters-witness-2021-09-13/
Riaz Haq said…
Key Concerns Persuade US, Pakistan to Maintain Links
By Anwar Iqbal
Washington, DC


https://www.pakistanlink.org//Opinion/2021/Sep21/10/12.HTM

Two key concerns – losing a nuclear-armed country to China and having no influence over the Taliban — prevent the Biden administration from moving further away from Pakistan, shows a set of documents leaked to the media.
The Politico — a news outlet that covers the US capital city – published a report on Friday on messages exchanged between Washington and Islamabad recently.
The messages also show that “the Biden administration is quietly pressing Pakistan to cooperate on fighting terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan,” the report claimed.
The messages show that Washington sees Pakistan as “a nation with links to the Afghan Taliban whose cooperation on fighting terrorism can be helpful. It’s also a nuclear-armed country American officials would prefer not to lose entirely to the Chinese influence,” the report added.
In response, Pakistan “has hinted that Islamabad deserves more public recognition of its role in helping people now fleeing Afghanistan, even as it has downplayed fears of what Taliban rule of the country could mean,” the report adds.
On Wednesday, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland included Pakistan on a list of countries that provided “critical support” to US evacuation efforts. “We are enormously grateful” to these countries, who have helped transit Americans and others to safety.” Previous US statements had omitted Pakistan.
The exchanges between the US and Pakistan “suggest that the two governments are far from lockstep on the road ahead, even now that the United States has pulled its troops from Afghanistan,” Politico observed.
In one discussion with a US official, Pakistan’s Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan appeared to question reports that the Taliban were carrying out revenge attacks in Afghanistan.
Quoting Pakistani “ground observations,” Ambassador Khan told the US officials that the Afghan Taliban “were not seeking retribution, and in fact they were going home to home to assure Afghans that there will not be reprisals.”
The US official, Ervin Massinga of the State Department, however, said that “he has seen reports to the contrary and hopes the Taliban do not seek revenge.”
The leaked documents include messages from the US Embassy, Islamabad, telling Washington that they were “being strained by the Afghan refugee crisis” and seeking guidance on how to deal with the situation.
The meeting between Mr Massinga and Ambassador Khan took place on August 26, the day that some 170 Afghans and 13 US troops were killed in a bombing at the Kabul airport. US officials have blamed the attack on the militant Islamic State group, seen as a rival of the Afghan Taliban.
An official description of the meeting shows that Ambassador Khan offered condolences and the use of Pakistani medical facilities. The US official, however, suggested that Pakistan could help on other fronts.
“Acknowledging the tragedy, Mr Massinga underscored the mutual interest Pakistan and the United States have in targeting ISIS and Al Qaeda.” In response, Ambassador Khan “acknowledged ISIS was a common enemy for the Taliban as well.”
Mr Massinga expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s role in helping evacuees get out of Afghanistan, according to the meeting notes. The portions seen by POLITICO did not specify exactly what Pakistan was doing.
At one point in the talk, however, Ambassador “Khan intimated the Pakistani government would also appreciate public acknowledgment for the country’s assistance on the evacuation front.” An August 20 statement of gratitude from Blinken to several countries for their help in the evacuations did not mention Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
The Biden administration has been unusually circumspect about revealing its contacts and discussions with Pakistan. While Pakistan’s actions often appear at odds with the United States, it nonetheless is a nation with links to the Afghan Taliban whose cooperation on fighting terrorism can be helpful. It’s also a nuclear-armed country American officials would prefer not to lose entirely to Chinese influence.

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/02/us-pakistan-afghan-crisis-509157


In the past month, as the Taliban made rapid gains across Afghanistan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke directly only once to Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, according to what’s been made public by the State Department. Readouts of these diplomatic calls are usually so bland as to be useless to observers and the press, but this one, from Aug. 16, was unusually devoid of detail.

About a week earlier, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Pakistan’s Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, met with his Pakistani counterpart, Moeed Yusuf, in late July — a meeting confirmed via a Sullivan tweet but no White House readout.

“It’s clear that the Biden administration from the top levels seems to have pretty deep reservations about Pakistan, born of years of experience, and is not willing to either give Pakistan a pass or kudos for anything that Pakistan might like,” said Daniel Markey, a South Asia specialist who served at the State Department from 2003 to 2007.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as the United States invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime at the time, U.S. officials leaned on Pakistan for help. Pakistan cooperated to some degree, especially in late 2001, but critics say it has played a double game ever since.

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Former officials say that, among other reasons for its support, Pakistan sees the Afghan Taliban as a partner in any future fight against rival India. Pakistan also helped deliver Afghan Taliban leaders to peace talks with the United States and the now-fallen Afghan government, even as Islamabad has long officially dismissed the idea that it actively supports the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan has been more helpful to the United States in its fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, but even that cooperation has been questioned. It was in Abbottabad, Pakistan, after all, that the United States found and killed Al Qaeda chief and Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in 2011. The Pakistani government denied knowing he was there.

That said, Pakistani help in tracking down and targeting terrorist targets in Afghanistan now that the U.S. has withdrawn troops would be “useful, if you can get it,” a former senior U.S. diplomat said. Getting humanitarian aid to Afghanistan in the future may require using supply lines that run through Pakistan, the former diplomat added.

The Afghan Taliban’s triumph in August may not prove a long-term victory for Pakistan. The win has emboldened groups like the Pakistani Taliban, who have long used terrorist attacks and other means to try to overthrow the Pakistani government. The refugee crisis sparked by the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan, too, is sure to test Pakistan, which already hosted numerous people displaced from the neighboring country.

The meeting between Massinga and Khan took place on Aug. 26, the day that some 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops were killed in a bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, which the U.S. was using to help evacuate at-risk Afghans, Americans and others. U.S. officials blamed the attack, which also wounded many people, on ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State terrorist organization and a rival of the Afghan Taliban.

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“Acknowledging the tragedy, Massinga underscored the mutual interest Pakistan and the United States have in targeting ISIS-K and al-Qa’ida,” the description states. In response, the Pakistani ambassador “acknowledged ISIS-K was a common enemy for the Taliban as well.”
Riaz Haq said…
The U.S.-Pakistan Relationship Needs a Rethink
By The Editors | Bloomberg

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/the-us-pakistan-relationship-needs-a-rethink/2021/09/16/d15e19be-16ee-11ec-a019-cb193b28aa73_story.html

Now that U.S. forces have withdrawn, Washington should rethink this toxic relationship. It remains true that ignoring or isolating Pakistan would be unwise; continued cooperation on intelligence and overflight rights could greatly help in keeping tabs on terrorist groups in Afghanistan. But hopes of a broader partnership should finally be suspended. Policy toward Pakistan should be narrowly targeted, largely transactional and focused resolutely on U.S. interests.

Those interests include, primarily, limiting the twin threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Some cooperation on the first should still be possible. Pakistan doesn’t want to see a resurgence of al-Qaeda or the Islamic State offshoot in Afghanistan, while the U.S. should be open to helping Islamabad counter the so-called Pakistani Taliban. Still, the U.S. would be wise to pursue possible basing arrangements in the Central Asian states, where it would be freer to target groups with closer links to the Pakistani spy services.

Rather than struggling to incentivize better behavior in other areas, the U.S. should use sticks as necessary. Sanctions should be levied against Pakistani generals and spies conclusively linked to extremist groups. Any proliferation of nuclear technology or weapons should prompt far more extensive penalties. The Biden administration should also block efforts to remove Pakistan from the Financial Action Task Force “gray list” until the country demonstrates that it’s truly cracking down on terrorist financing and the flow of jihadists into Afghanistan. And the U.S. should exert economic leverage by insisting that Pakistan fully meet International Monetary Fund conditions to resume its bailout package.

Similarly, while Pakistan will only go so far to moderate the Taliban’s behavior, pressure is more likely to get results than pleas. If Pakistani leaders truly want the U.S. to ease its financial stranglehold over the Taliban and prevent the Afghan economy from collapsing, for instance, they should use their influence to ensure the Taliban allow vulnerable Afghans to emigrate, humanitarian aid to flow, and women to study and work.

More generally, the U.S. should stop granting Pakistan special treatment. The fiction that Pakistan is a “major non-NATO ally” should finally be abandoned. This rebalancing should be dispassionate, not spiteful — indeed, the U.S. should continue to support Pakistani civil society, including by funding health, education and climate initiatives, and should lead global efforts to cushion the blow of any refugee exodus from Afghanistan. In the long run, both countries will benefit from a more honest, clear-eyed approach. Meanwhile, the U.S. would be better off investing less in a relationship whose fruits have been so bitter.

Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.
Riaz Haq said…
The #US War on Terror Was Corrupt From the Start. Look under the hood of the “good war,” and this (#corruption) is what you see. #WarOnTerror #Afghanistan #Ghani #Karazi #Taliban #contractors https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/13/opinion/afghanistan-war-economy.html?smid=tw-share

The war in Afghanistan wasn’t a failure. It was a massive success — for those who made a fortune off it.

Consider the case of Hikmatullah Shadman, who was just a teenager when American Special Forces rolled into Kandahar on the heels of Sept. 11. They hired him as an interpreter, paying him up to $1,500 a month — 20 times the salary of a local police officer, according to a profile of him in The New Yorker. By his late 20s, he owned a trucking company that supplied U.S. military bases, earning him more than $160 million.

If a small fry like Shadman could get so rich off the war on terror, imagine how much Gul Agha Sherzai, a big-time warlord-turned-governor, has raked in since he helped the C.I.A. run the Taliban out of town. His large extended family supplied everything from gravel to furniture to the military base in Kandahar. His brother controlled the airport. Nobody knows how much he is worth, but it is clearly hundreds of millions — enough for him to talk about a $40,000 shopping spree in Germany as if he were spending pocket change.

Look under the hood of the “good war,” and this is what you see. Afghanistan was supposed to be an honorable war to neutralize terrorists and rescue girls from the Taliban. It was supposed to be a war that we woulda coulda shoulda won, had it not been for the distraction of Iraq and the hopeless corruption of the Afghan government. But let’s get real. Corruption wasn’t a design flaw in the war. It was a design feature. We didn’t topple the Taliban. We paid warlords bags of cash to do it.

As the nation-building project got underway, those warlords were transformed into governors, generals and members of Parliament, and the cash payments kept flowing.

“Westerners often scratched their heads at the persistent lack of capacity in Afghan governing institutions,” Sarah Chayes, a former special assistant to U.S. military leaders in Kandahar, wrote recently in Foreign Affairs. “But the sophisticated networks controlling those institutions never intended to govern. Their objective was self-enrichment. And at that task, they proved spectacularly successful.”

Instead of a nation, what we really built were more than 500 military bases — and the personal fortunes of the people who supplied them. That had always been the deal. In April 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dictated a top-secret memo ordering aides to come up with “a plan for how we are going to deal with each of these warlords — who is going to get money from whom, on what basis, in exchange for what, what is the quid pro quo, etc.,” according to The Washington Post.

The war proved enormously lucrative for many Americans and Europeans, too. One 2008 study estimated that some 40 percent of the money allocated to Afghanistan went back to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries. Only about 12 percent of U.S. reconstruction assistance given to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2021 actually went to the Afghan government. Much of the rest went to companies like the Louis Berger Group, a New Jersey-based construction firm that got a $1.4 billion contract to build schools, clinics and roads. Even after it got caught bribing officials and systematically overbilling taxpayers, the contracts kept coming.

“It’s a bugbear of mine that Afghan corruption is so frequently cited as an explanation (as well as an excuse) for Western failure in Afghanistan,” Jonathan Goodhand, a professor in conflict and development studies at SOAS University of London, wrote me in an email. Americans “point the finger at Afghans, whilst ignoring their role in both fueling and benefiting from the patronage pump.”

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