Karachi-Born US Senator Van Hollen Stands Up For Pakistan During Afghanistan Hearing

Maryland Democrat Chis Van Hollen, a key US senator who was born in Karachi, said it was the Trump administration that asked Pakistan to release the top three Taliban leaders for US-Taliban peace talks in Doha Qatar. He was speaking at a recent US Senate hearing on the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the chaotic US withdrawal that followed the Afghan Army collapse

Senator Chris Van Hollen


Senator Chris Van Hollen was born in 1959 in Karachi where his father was serving as a foreign service officer at the US Embassy in Karachi, Pakistan. His father later served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (1969–1972) and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives (1972–1976). His mother worked for the CIA as chief of the intelligence bureau for South Asia.

“Is it not the fact that the Trump administration asked the Pakistani government to release three top Taliban commanders as part of that (peace) process?” Senator Van Hollen asked. Targeting the Trump administration, Van Hollen continued, “And so, we pick a date. We say to the Taliban you can attack Afghan forces and then we say, now let’s negotiate the future of Afghanistan. Isn’t the way it was set up when you walked in?” “That’s essentially, yes," Blinken replied.   

Referring to allegations of Pakistan's complicity in promoting chaos in Afghanistan, Senator Van Hollen said, “I think a number of those countries, at least Pakistan — like India, like the others — have an interest in preventing chaos and civil war in Afghanistan".

Here's the exchange between Van Hollen and Blinken at the Afghanistan hearing on Capitol Hill:

 Van Hollen: “Is it not the fact that the Trump administration asked the Pakistani government to release three top Taliban commanders as part of that process?” 

Blinken: “That’s correct".

Van Hollen: “And one of them is now number two in the Taliban government, Baradar, right?”

Blinken: “That’s correct.” 

Van Hollen: “He is the person everybody saw in those photos in Kabul, right?” 

Mr Blinken: “That’s correct.” 

Van Hollen: “And there was another senior commander, and they began the discussions in Doha.” 

Blinken: “That’s right.” 

Van Hollen: “They (US negotiators) did not include the Afghan government, did they?” 

Blinken: “That’s right, correct.” 

Van Hollen: “And they in fact essentially ordered, pressured, the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, right?” 

Blinken: “That’s correct.” 

Van Hollen: “Many of those fighters are involved in the attack on Kabul today, right?” 

Blinken: “Yes.” 

Van Hollen: “Now, let’s see what the negotiation was: the US will leave by a certain date in May this year, right?” 

Blinken: “Correct.” 

Van Hollen: “You can’t attack American forces, but you can attack the Afghan forces with impunity, right?” 

Blinken: “That’s correct.” 

Van Hollen: “And so, we pick a date. We say to the Taliban you can attack Taliban forces and then we say, now let’s negotiate the future of Afghanistan. Isn’t the way it was set up when you walked in?”

Blinken: “That’s essentially, yes.” . 


British Defense Forces Chief General Sir Nick Carter is another western leader who has defended Pakistan recently. Responding to the familiar charge of "safe havens" for Taliban in Pakistan, General Nick Carter told BBC's Yalda Hakim that Pakistanis have hosted millions of Afghan refugees for many years and "they end up with all sorts of people". "We would be very worried if they heartlessly kicked out" the Afghans from Pakistan. He said that Pakistan's Army Chief General Bajwa genuinely wants to see a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. 

Carter Malkasian, former advisor to US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dunford, has also recently talked about how Afghan governments have scapegoated Pakistan for their own 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.  

Many westerners, including politicians, generals, analysts and journalists, are angry with Pakistan for the stinging US defeat in Afghanistan. They are trying to scapegoat Pakistan for the West's failed policies. Some want to punish Pakistan. However, many of them also recognize the importance of Pakistan in dealing with the aftermath of the Afghan fiasco. American analyst Michael Kugelman recently tweeted about America's use of Pakistani airspace (ALOCS) for "over-the-horizon" counter-terrorism ops in Afghanistan, underlining Pakistan's importance to the United States.  

US Analyst Michael Kugelman on American Reliance on Pakistan

A recent piece in Politico summed up US reliance on Pakistan as follows :

"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".  

Comments

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.”

Riaz Haq said…
#China, #Russia bring #Iran, #Pakistan into fold to face #Afghanistan crisis jointly. Top diplomats from China, Russia, Iran & Pakistan met Thursday for their first quadrilateral summit on the sidelines of the SCO summit in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.
https://www.newsweek.com/china-russia-bring-iran-pakistan-fold-face-afghanistan-1629992

"Acting in good faith," he (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov) added, "we can make a difference in creating necessary external conditions for the Afghans to get their destiny in their own hands, without any threats emanating from the Afghan territory in regards to terrorism, drug trafficking, and without any risks and challenges created from the territory of Afghanistan to its neighbors."

In a readout released following their discussions, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that "approaches were compared on issues of facilitating establishment of peace, stability and security in Afghanistan, while the necessity to establish national reconciliation in the country was stressed."

The Iranian Foreign Ministry also reported positive results.

"At the meeting, the top diplomats supported the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of all ethnic groups in Afghanistan," the Iranian side said in its own account of the four-way talks. "An Afghanistan free of terrorism, free of drugs and free of threats against its neighbors was another topic on the agenda."

The meeting is the latest platform among involving regional countries to address the situation in Afghanistan, where the international country at large remains concerned about the Taliban's ability to stabilize the war-torn nation and curb the spread of militant groups known to operate there.

The security climate across Afghanistan and its periphery also dominated a meeting held Thursday by member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a post-Soviet, Russia-led alliance that also includes Armenia and Belarus as well as the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

"The situation in the CSTO's zone of responsibility and on the external borders of its member states remains unstable and spells new and truly acute challenges and risks for the security of our countries," Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Putin was slated to stage another appearance at Friday's Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) leaders' summit also taking place in Dushanbe. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan also count themselves as members of the SCO, as do China, India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

Iran, like Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia, is an SCO observer state. But the Islamic Republic is expected to receive full membership as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi traveled to Tajikistan to appear in person alongside Pakistani Foreign Minister Imran Khan and other leaders, while Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were scheduled to speak virtually.


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While these differences continue to exist, the situation in Afghanistan has presented a path for Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Islamabad to overcome their differences and coalesce. It was also an opportunity to present to the world an alternative order to that advertised by the United States.

The U.S. has accused both China and Russia of pursuing destabilizing moves across the globe, and has instituted tough sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have also strained due to the former's warming relationship with India and the latter's long-cultivated ties to the Taliban.

The emerging dynamic reverses Cold War-era interactions that saw the U.S. and Pakistan on one side of the decades-long geopolitical dispute, and the Soviet Union and India on the other. India and Russia still maintain warm relations, but the SCO has sought to bring all regional parties together, leaving the U.S. on the sidelines.
Riaz Haq said…
Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad on Thursday said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's remarks earlier this week, in which he had said the United States would be reassessing its relationship with Pakistan, were "not in line with the close cooperation" between the two countries.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1646731

He made the comment in response to a question during his weekly press conference in Islamabad.

Terming Blinken's statement a "surprise", the spokesperson noted that Pakistan's positive role in the Afghan peace process, facilitation of the multinational evacuation effort from the war-torn country, and continued support for an inclusive political settlement had been "duly acknowledged", including by the US state department spokesperson in his press briefing on Wednesday.

Ahmad recalled that Pakistan had played a "critical role" in helping the US degrade Al Qaeda's core leadership in Afghanistan which was the international coalition's main objective.

Pakistan had "always maintained" that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and a political settlement was the only plausible pathway to sustainable peace in the country, he further noted, adding that the stance was now shared by the US.

Ahmad said that achieving an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan that reflected the country's diversity and protected the gains made during the last two decades remained a "shared objective" of Pakistan and the US.

"We look forward to building on this convergence while also strengthening other aspects of a broad-based and constructive relationship," he added.

'Some conflicting interests'
While testifying before Congress on Monday on the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, Blinken had said the US would be looking at its relationship with Pakistan in the coming weeks to formulate what role Washington would want it to play in the future of Afghanistan.

Blinken told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that Pakistan had a "multiplicity of interests, [with] some that are in conflict with ours".

Asked by lawmakers if it was time for Washington to reassess its relationship with Pakistan, Blinken said the administration would soon be doing that.

"This is one of the things we're going to be looking at in the days, and weeks ahead — the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years but also the role we would want to see it play in the coming years and what it will take for it to do that," he said.

Asked about Blinken's remarks in his press briefing on Wednesday, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US had been in regular touch with Pakistan and had discussed the situation in Afghanistan in detail.

"Pakistan, we know, has frequently advocated for an inclusive government with broad support in Afghanistan, and what the secretary was referring to yesterday is that we are going to continue to look to Pakistan and to other countries in the region to make good on their public statements, on commitments they have made," Price said.

These commitments included working constructively with the US and the international community to ensure that they were on the same page on shared priorities, including the humanitarian concerns, rights and gains of the Afghan people over the past 20 years as well as counterterrorism concerns, he added.
Riaz Haq said…
Sour grapes India: Pakistan has clearly won in Afghanistan
September 21, 2021, 2:52 PM IST

By Sunil Sharan in Strategic Insights, India, World, TOI

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/strategic-insights/sour-grapes-india-pakistan-has-clearly-won-in-afghanistan/

Much hand-wringing and hair-pulling is going on in India over Pakistan’s “1971” moment. Actually Pakistan has had two 1971 moments. Once when they ejected the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989, and now.

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The fight then is clear. It is white Christian nations versus brown Muslim nations. The US has been involved in the following campaigns after 9/11: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. All Muslim nations. It has met defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and been dealt a bruising blow in Libya, Syria and Yemen. Estimate of Muslim lives lost from war and displacement caused by war since 9/11 vary between five and ten million.

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Much is being made of Blinken’s statement that the US would like to see Pakistan evolve the way it, the US, wishes. This is just wishful thinking. When the Americans were all over Afghanistan (and Pakistan), they could not force the Pakistanis to do what they wanted to do. Now that they have hightailed out of Afghanistan, are we expected to believe that the US has more leverage over Pakistan now than before?

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Other than the US, the country that has clearly lost out in Afghanistan is India. For 20 years, India has poured over $3 billion in aid and reconstruction into Afghanistan, all of which, in a jiffy, has just landed in the hands of the Taliban. Pakistan has now become without doubt emboldened to launch a second jihad to liberate Kashmir from India. India cannot be naïve and altruistic anymore. It has to ramp up support for Pakistan’s Baloch rebels as well as instigate the Taliban in amalgamating Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province into Afghanistan, a long-cherished dream of its.


India just cannot afford to be a mute and idle spectator in the AfPak region. Its very survival is at risk. Pakistan has often accused India of fomenting terrorism in its own territory through the Pakistani Taliban. But think about this. The Pakistani Taliban wants to impose sharia in Pakistan, just as it’s been now imposed in Afghanistan.

But Pakistan’s Muslims are Hinduized. They don’t want sharia, just as India doesn’t want an enormous territory on its western flank under sharia. It is in India’s interest that Pakistan stays Hinduized. Why then would India support the Pakistani Taliban?
Riaz Haq said…
Iran first welcomed #Taliban victory but assault on the #PanjshirValley changed #Iran. Iranian media falsely alleged #Pakistan military was assisting Taliban offensive, an allegation had earlier been made in hysterical clown show that is the #Indian media https://www.arabnews.pk/node/1931971#.YUo3sMOIEtw.twitter

by Zarrar Khuro

"Brinkmanship may be a hallmark of Iranian policy but it only works when you know for sure where the brink actually is"

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When Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan met Iranian President Seyed Ibrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Dushanbe, it was perhaps without the bonhomie that would ordinarily accompany such a meeting. But then these are extraordinary times, with the Taliban sweeping to power after the escape of Ashraf Ghani who, from the confines of his ivory tower in Kabul, perhaps imagined that the US would never abandon him and who also made the cardinal sin of believing his own spin.
As the region and the world attempts to reconcile itself with the new reality, Iran seems increasingly discomfited despite initially having welcomed ‘the military defeat and withdrawal of the United States’ from Afghanistan. Soon after the Taliban took Kabul, Iran resumed fuel supplies to Afghanistan in what was seen as an attempt to, if not normalize relations, then to at least not start off on the wrong foot with the new rulers of Kabul. But then once the Taliban assault on the Panjshir Valley began, the messaging from Iran became curious indeed, with Iranian media alleging that the Pakistan military was assisting the Taliban offensive with special forces and drone strikes. This allegation had previously been made in the hysterical clown show that is the Indian media which, true to form, used old footage from air exercises in Wales and Arizona and the occasional video game to illustrate its farcical reports. But even that spectacle was less surreal than seeing Iranian media quoting Fox News (not exactly known for its fair and balanced approach toward Iran) which in turn quoted an anonymous CENTCOM (which is listed as a terrorist organization in Iran) source as the origin of this ‘report.’
Now, one could argue that these are media reports and thus by no means an official state narrative-- but then just a few days back, an Iranian MP repeated the allegation, even going so far as to accuse Pakistan of using Chechen veterans of the Syrian civil war in this alleged assault. Now this is amusing because it’s not so much the pot calling the kettle black, but the pot actually inventing a kettle; if anyone can be accused of using proxy forces as an extension of foreign policy it is Iran, which has used sectarian militias operating under the aegis of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to project power and influence across the Middle East, from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. It’s been a rather successful and relatively low-cost strategy, the transnational nature of which was on full display when on September 16, a convoy of Iranian fuel trucks entered Lebanon through Syria and was welcomed by Hezbollah members. A successful strategy begs to be replicated in other theaters and so Iran likely bet on doing the same in an Afghanistan where the Taliban and government forces would remain in a military deadlock for some time to come. In that scenario, not only would Ismail Khan of Herat prove an invaluable asset, but a prolonged conflict may also have provided the opportunity to redeploy the Liwa Fatemiyoun, a militia comprised of Afghan Shias which saw extensive action in Iraq and Syria. Even if that deployment never took place, Iran would still have been able to use the good offices of its main Afghan ally, warlord Ismail Khan of Herat, to project influence in a post-US dispensation.
Riaz Haq said…
Iran first welcomed #Taliban victory but assault on the #PanjshirValley changed #Iran. Iranian media falsely alleged #Pakistan military was assisting Taliban offensive, an allegation had earlier been made in hysterical clown show that is the #Indian media https://www.arabnews.pk/node/1931971#.YUo3sMOIEtw.twitter

by Zarrar Khuro

"Brinkmanship may be a hallmark of Iranian policy but it only works when you know for sure where the brink actually is"

If anyone can be accused of using proxy forces as an extension of foreign policy it is Iran, which has used sectarian militias operating under the aegis of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to project power and influence across the Middle East, from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon.

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Instead, Ismail Khan fled to Iran after surrendering to the Taliban and the quick conclusion to the fighting meant that Iran would gain no strategic depth in Afghanistan the way it had in Iraq and beyond. But that alone cannot explain Iran’s ire toward Pakistan, which it likely sees as having gained influence at Tehran’s expense, and so we must cast a broader net and switch our view from geostrategy to geoeconomics and in particular the future trade routes that may crisscross this region.
Iran’s desire to become the primary trade route through which exports from Afghanistan, and eventually transit trade from Central Asia would reach the world has also seen a setback especially in the context of talks regarding operationalizing the transit trade agreement between Uzbekistan and Pakistan, which would see transit trade being shifted from Iranian ports to Pakistani ports. Not only is that bad news for Bandar Abbas, it’s also yet another blow to Iranian hopes to further develop the Chabahar port, a joint project between Tehran and New Delhi.
Chabahar had already been suffering from delays and had also been seeing declining volumes due to the pandemic. The Taliban takeover then, may prove to be the final nail in the coffin of this already-troubled project and the fate of the transit agreement signed by the Ghani government with India and Iran is also now uncertain. None of this is good news for a cash-strapped Iran.
Despite this, the targeting of Pakistan by Iranian media and officials does seem like a strategic miscalculation, given Iran’s preoccupations in the Middle East. Brinkmanship may be a hallmark of Iranian policy, but it only works when you know for sure where the brink actually is.
Riaz Haq said…
#Blinken Sees 'Strong Unity of Approach' on #Taliban After Talks With #Pakistan, Key Regional Players. Pakistan says the world has “a moral obligation” to collectively work to help the #Afghan people to avert #humanitarian crisis. #US #Afghanistan https://www.voanews.com/a/blinken-sees-strong-unity-of-approach-on-taliban-after-talks-with-pakistan-key-regional-players-/6243968.html

Qureshi “hoped that the world would not repeat the mistake of disengaging with Afghanistan,” according to the statement.

The U.S. State Department said Blinken stressed “the importance of coordinating our diplomatic engagement and facilitating the departure of those wishing to leave Afghanistan” in his talks with Qureshi.

The Taliban swept through Afghanistan in August, after Washington and Western allies withdrew their troops in line with U.S. President Joe Biden’s orders that there was no point in extending America's longest war beyond 20 years.

The Islamist movement’s return to power prompted the Biden administration to swiftly block billions of dollars held in U.S. reserves for Kabul, while the World Bank and International Monetary Fund both halted Afghanistan’s access to crucial funding amid worries about the fate of Afghan basic human rights under Taliban rule.

Blinken told reporters Thursday the Afghan issue was the focus of his multilateral and bilateral meetings, including with counterparts from Russia and China. He said the Taliban continue to seek legitimacy and international support for their rule in Kabul, saying the world is united on how to deal with Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

“I think there is very strong unity of approach and unity of purpose... again, the Taliban says that it seeks legitimacy, that it seeks support from the international community; the relationship that it has with the international community is going to be defined by the actions it takes. That’s what we’re looking for,” Blinken stressed.

He reiterated U.S. priorities for the Islamist group, including allowing Afghans and foreign nationals to leave the country, respecting human rights, particularly for women, girls and minorities, preventing terrorist groups from using Afghanistan to threaten other countries, and forming a “genuinely inclusive government” that can reflect aspirations of the Afghan people.

The Taliban have dismissed criticism of their male-only interim cabinet, saying it represents all Afghan ethnicities and it promised to “very soon” bring women on board.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban) has writ all over the country and enjoy grassroots support. We truly represent the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan and are ready to engage with the world,” Suhail Shaheen, whom the Taliban have nominated as their permanent representative to the U.N., said Friday.

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Pakistan, China, and Russia have all moved to engage with the Taliban and have been urging the global community to engage with and help the new rulers in Kabul meet urgent humanitarian needs of Afghans.

They have demanded unfreezing of Afghan assets and removal of other economic sanctions on Kabul but they also have linked recognition of the new Taliban government until it delivers on its stated commitments.

“Just as an overwhelming majority of countries around the world, we prefer to most closely watch what the Taliban have been doing in Afghanistan, what final shape the structure of power in that country will take, and how the given promises will be fulfilled. We are monitoring this very closely,” Russian media quoted presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying Friday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, while addressing a virtual conference of G-20 foreign ministers on Thursday, also underscored the importance of the Taliban ensuring a broad and inclusive governance system in Kabul but slammed the freezing of Afghan assets by the U.S. and international lending institutions.

Riaz Haq said…
Exclusive: Pakistani Leader Imran Khan Says Taliban Can Be America's Partner for Peace
Inbox

https://www.newsweek.com/2021/10/08/exclusive-pakistani-leader-imran-khan-says-taliban-can-americas-partner-peace-1632231.html


IMran Khan: "For its part, the United States has divested a liability—its costly military intervention—which, as the U.S. President has himself admitted, was not a strategic priority for the United States. Both Pakistan and the United States need to prevent terrorism emanating from Afghanistan. To this end, we should cooperate to help in stabilizing Afghanistan by addressing the humanitarian crisis in that country and supporting its economic recovery. Of course, there may be an immediate negative impact in the U.S. due to the chaotic nature of its evacuation from Kabul. The U.S. has withdrawn voluntarily from Afghanistan. Therefore, I don't think that the U.S. withdrawal will erode U.S. credibility globally in the long term."

"As for China, if China offers economic support to Afghanistan, it's natural that the Afghans will accept it. The Taliban have welcomed the prospects of being incorporated in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and establishing close relations with China.

However, the U.S. too can play an important and positive role in Afghanistan by providing humanitarian assistance, contributing to Afghanistan's recovery and reconstruction, and cooperating in containing terrorism from Afghanistan. During the Doha peace process, the U.S. established a working relationship with the Taliban. There was direct cooperation between the U.S. and the Taliban during the evacuation process. I believe that the U.S. can work with a new government in Afghanistan to promote common interests and regional stability".
Riaz Haq said…
Opinion: The time for equivocating about a nuclear-armed, Taliban-friendly Pakistan is over
by John Bolton


https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/08/23/john-bolton-taliban-takeover-pakistan-extremists/


Is President Biden sufficiently resolute to do the necessary? Probably not. In George Packer’s recent biography of diplomat Richard Holbrooke, he quotes from Holbrooke’s notes taken during an Obama administration Situation Room meeting on Afghanistan. “Among his notes were private interjections,” Packer writes. “Vice President Joe Biden said that every one of Pakistan’s interests was also America’s interest: ‘HUH?’”
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan is critical to #US #intelligence & national #security because of its proximity to #Afghanistan & connections to the Taliban. Ex diplomats & intelligence officers from both countries say the possibilities for cooperation are severely limited. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/us-pakistan-afghanistan-un_n_614f33dbe4b03dd7280b6631?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

Pakistan’s prime minister, in remarks Friday to the U.N. General Assembly, made clear there is a long way to go. Imran Khan tried to portray his country as the victim of American ungratefulness for its assistance in Afghanistan over the years. Instead of a mere “word of appreciation,” Pakistan has received blame, Khan said.

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The Biden administration is looking for new ways to stop terrorist threats in Afghanistan after withdrawing all troops.

Over two decades of war, American officials accused Pakistan of playing a double game by promising to fight terrorism and cooperate with Washington while cultivating the Taliban and other extremist groups that attacked U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Islamabad pointed to what it saw as failed promises of a supportive government in Kabul after the U.S. drove the Taliban from power after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as extremist groups took refuge in eastern Afghanistan and launched deadly attacks throughout Pakistan.

But the U.S. wants Pakistani cooperation in counterterrorism efforts and could seek permission to fly surveillance flights into Afghanistan or other intelligence cooperation. Pakistan wants U.S. military aid and good relations with Washington, even as its leaders openly celebrate the Taliban’s rise to power.

“Over the last 20 years, Pakistan has been vital for various logistics purposes for the U.S. military. What’s really been troubling is that, unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of trust,” said U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat who is on the House Intelligence Committee. “I think the question is whether we can get over that history to arrive at a new understanding.”
Riaz Haq said…
#Russia says it’s in sync with #US, #China, #Pakistan on #Taliban. FM Lavrov said all 4 governments are in ongoing contact and their representatives have recently traveled to #Qatar and then to #Afghanistan’s capital, #Kabul to urge "inclusive government"
https://apnews.com/article/united-nations-general-assembly-business-africa-russia-middle-east-3a0b6569a8478246b0eef5f03f997af8


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia, China, Pakistan and the United States are working together to ensure that Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers keep their promises, especially to form a genuinely representative government and prevent extremism from spreading, Russia’s foreign minister said Saturday.

Sergey Lavrov said the four countries are in ongoing contact. He said representatives from Russia, China and Pakistan recently traveled to Qatar and then to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to engage with both the Taliban and representatives of “secular authorities” — former president Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who headed the ousted government’s negotiating council with the Taliban.

Lavrov said the interim government announced by the Taliban does not reflect “the whole gamut of Afghan society — ethno-religious and political forces — so we are engaging in contacts. They are ongoing.”

The Taliban have promised an inclusive government, a more moderate form of Islamic rule than when they last ruled the country from 1996 to 2001 including respecting women’s rights, providing stability after 20 years of war, fighting terrorism and extremism and stopping militants from using their territory to launch attacks. But recent moves suggest they may be returning to more repressive policies, particularly toward women and girls.

“What’s most important ... is to ensure that the promises that they have proclaimed publicly to be kept,” Lavrov said. “And for us, that is the top priority.”

At a wide-ranging news conference and in his speech afterward at the U.N. General Assembly, Lavrov criticized the Biden administration including for its hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan.

He said the U.S. and NATO pullout “was carried out out without any consideration of the consequences ... that there are many weapons left in Afghanistan.” It remains critical, he said, that such weapons aren’t used for “destructive purposes.”

Later, in his assembly speech, Lavrov accused the United States and its Western allies of “persistent attempts to diminish the U.N.’s role in resolving the key problems of today or to sideline it or to make it a malleable tool for promoting someone’s selfish interests.”

As examples, Lavrov said Germany and France recently announced the creation of an Alliance For Multilateralism “even though what kind of structure could be more multilateral than the United Nations?”

The United States is also sidestepping the U.N., he said, pointing to the recent U.S. announcement of a “Summit for Democracy” despite, Lavrov said, U.S. President Joe Biden’s pledge this week “that the U.S. is not seeking a world divided into opposing blocs.”

“It goes without saying that Washington is going to choose the participants by itself, thus hijacking the right to decide to what degree a country meets the standards of democracy,” Lavrov said. “Essentially, this initiative is quite in the spirit of a Cold War, as it declares a new ideological crusade against all dissenters.”
Riaz Haq said…
Get the Generals Out of Pakistani-U.S. Relations
Civilian-led outreach can find areas of actual cooperation instead of mutual blame.
By Adam Weinstein, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/09/30/pakistan-us-afghanistan-relations-withdrawal/


What makes the U.S.-Pakistan relationship so toxic is not that their interests have diverged widely from the halcyon days of anti-Soviet cooperation but the prevailing assumption that their differences can only be managed through coercive engagement, money thrown at the problem, or disengagement

One root cause of this dysfunction is relations are largely managed through the two countries’ security establishments. In 2018, then-commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel testified to the House Armed Services Committee, saying he spoke to his Pakistani counterpart “almost weekly.” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has spoken by phone with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, at least four times, and in early September, CIA director William Burns met with Bajwa and ISI Director-General Faiz Hameed. U.S. President Joe Biden has yet to call Khan, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met in person for the first time last week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have often grown closer during periods of military rule, such as during the 1960s under then-Pakistani President Ayub Khan, the 1980s under then-Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, and the early 2000s under Musharraf. Ties grew noticeably colder under the civilian leadership of then-Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s, who ultimately accused Washington of plotting against him prior to his imprisonment and execution by Zia-ul-Haq.

Washington’s leaders might say they have no choice but to deal directly with Pakistan’s security establishment, which is the country’s real decision-maker on matters of national security. But Washington, as Bolton’s words in 2010 indicated, has also grown accustomed to the political expediency of going straight to Pakistan’s brass and sidelining its civilian government. Bush’s “with us or against us” ultimatum to military dictator Pervez Musharraf was successful precisely because he was the sole decision-maker. Had Pakistan been a genuine democracy 20 years ago, fully accountable to its lawmakers and public opinion, then things might have gone differently. Instead, Washington and Islamabad’s spymasters and generals have eked out a working relationship while the civilian government remains disengaged.

Congress’s dubious attitude toward Pakistan was best summarized by Rep. Bill Keating when he recently described it as “one relationship that really always troubled me.” During that same hearing, Rep. Scott Perry struck at the heart of Pakistan’s insecurities when he exclaimed, “we should no longer pay Pakistan [for counterterrorism cooperation], and we should pay India.” Recently introduced legislation calls for an assessment of Pakistan’s past support for the Taliban but falls short of any punitive measures.

Khan’s jovial charm is powerful, but it hasn’t led to a significant shift in Washington perceptions of Pakistan, save for a few well-tended interlocutors like Sen. Lindsey Graham. But even there, praise for Islamabad is sometimes little more than an underhanded compliment intended to poke at a domestic political rival, such as when Graham criticized Biden for failing to reach out to Khan by phone—a snub that is a source of anxiety in Islamabad and a sign of how little Biden prioritizes Pakistan’s civilian leadership.
Riaz Haq said…
Get the Generals Out of Pakistani-U.S. Relations
Civilian-led outreach can find areas of actual cooperation instead of mutual blame.
By Adam Weinstein, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/09/30/pakistan-us-afghanistan-relations-withdrawal/


On Sept. 27, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan penned an op-ed in the Washington Post asking the United States to stop scapegoating Pakistan. He has a point. Pakistan’s nefarious role in Afghanistan is very real, but scapegoating Islamabad also became a coping mechanism for Washington and Kabul to avoid confronting their own failures. Washington’s unhealthy reliance on Pakistan throughout its war in Afghanistan kept the relationship at a dysfunctional equilibrium, but now relations are at risk of degenerating sharply, and the two countries have only themselves to blame. Overcoming this requires both Washington and Islamabad to prioritize realistic areas of cooperation over rehashing tired narratives of blame.

Pakistan, once rattled by the United States’ arrival in Afghanistan, became comfortable with the status quo of gradual Taliban gains kept at bay by a stuck United States reliant on Pakistan’s help. Islamabad only began to show inklings of buyer’s remorse over its support of the Taliban as the U.S. withdrawal deadline grew closer.

Almost exactly one year earlier, Khan penned an op-ed in the Washington Post warning against a “hasty international withdrawal” from Afghanistan. It was a carefully worded paean to Pakistan’s efforts in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. Khan concluded that “bloodless deadlock on the negotiating table is infinitely better than a bloody stalemate on the battlefield.” He got the deadlocked negotiations—but the result was anything but bloodless. Afghanistan descended into a tempest of Taliban-led fighting, unclaimed targeted killings with the Taliban quick to use Islamic State-Khorasan for plausible deniability, and diplomatic gridlock.

Islamabad’s hopes for what it called a “geoeconomic reset” that would broaden relations beyond security were cast aside by a new iteration of “do more.” As the Taliban advanced, Pakistan’s purported red line for its intransigent protégé retreated from don’t restore Afghanistan to don’t enter Kabul by force. That second line was never tested as the Taliban simply moseyed into the capital following the collapse of the Afghan government.

----------

The “maximum pressure” campaign used against Iran eroded the middle class, hurt private businesses, was a boon for ventures backed by the security establishment, and helped advance hard-liner narratives. A copy-and-paste application of this failed policy in Pakistan would likely produce similar results or simply foment a rally-around-the-flag effect. Some critics of Washington’s reliance on Pakistan propose a narrower approach focused on targeted sanctions against specific officials, ending its major non-NATO ally status, and scaling back attempts to cooperate. But like it or not, Pakistan’s cooperation is crucial for continued evacuations, refugee resettlement, and economic development in Afghanistan. Even some of the biggest critics of Pakistan’s security establishment have credited it with assisting Washington against transnational terrorist groups. Washington and Islamabad will likely continue to fight these groups together, even if the target list is narrower than the U.S. Defense Department and the CIA prefer. Pakistan also holds an inherent importance as a nuclear-armed country of more than 226 million people that finds itself on the front lines of climate change.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan: The handy Afghan bête noire?Published 2 hours ago on October 1, 2021By Amjed Jaaved

https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/10/01/pakistan-the-handy-afghan-bete-noire/

The portents are that the United States has once again found a convenient scapegoat to blame for the Afghan debacle. Wow, the US generals have vowed. “We need to fully examine the role of Pakistan sanctuary.” They emphasised “the need to probe how the Taliban withstood US military pressure for 20 years”. Claiming that the Taliban was and remains a terrorist organisation, the top US general Milley said: “It remains to be seen whether or not the Taliban can consolidate power or if the country will further fracture into civil war.”

Chairman of the Joint Chief General Mark Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committeealso claimed, “We estimated an accelerated withdrawal would increase risks of regional instability, the security of Pakistan and its nuclear arsenals”. Both generals, however, declined to discuss more on their concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the potential that they could fall into the hands of terrorists.

They acknowledged, “We need to fully examine the role of Pakistan sanctuary,” The general emphasised the need to probe how the Taliban withstood US military pressure for 20 years. They implied that it was Pakistan’s legerdemain that helped taliban carry the day. They said they would discuss this and other sensitive issues in a closed session with the senators.

Purpose of Pakistan bashing

The Pakistan bashing is an outcome of India’s pressure who wants quid pro quo for participation in the QUAD. The US wants to return to the good old days when Pakistan provided vital air corridors to bomb Afghanistan.

Familiar pattern

The Pakistan bashing has a familiar pattern. After a lull, they take out the old skeleton of nuclear proliferation and whip it into the international media. India is always in the forefront of this orchestrated campaign.

For instance, Press Trust of India dated January 10, 2006 reported “Pakistan continues to be the hub of nuclear black-market involved in trading surplus goods to other countries despite the uncovering of the proliferation network of disgraced former top scientist A Q Khan two years ago, a report said today citing European intelligence sources. The Khan network may not have been completely put out of action, an unnamed administration official has been quoted as saying by the ‘Washington Times.’9 not Washington Post). …”Khan has been pushed aside, but other, younger people have taken over,” David Albright, a nuclear analyst tracking the A Q Khan network at the Institute of Science and International Security told the daily. European intelligence agencies have come to the conclusion that Pakistan continues to procure – including from Europe- far beyond its needs”. It is believed that there are as many as 20 Pakistani government offices, laboratories, companies and trading organisations that are actively involved in the procurement effort with the end users being front companies of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission or the trading firms that are active on behalf of Islamabad. “In developing its nuclear installations, Pakistan depended on deliveries of equipment from abroad, particularly from Europe,” according to an intelligence assessment of July 2005, which noted that there have been attempts since 2004 at procurement with the range of materials bought going “clearly beyond” Pakistani requirement for spare parts.”
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One unmistakable conclusion from the dossier is that Pakistan’s motivation to go nuclear was well founded. In view of restrictions on nuclear exports, Pakistan did what other countries did to make its bomb.

Yet, Pakistan should prepare for a long period of nuclear bashing.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan: The handy Afghan bête noire?Published 2 hours ago on October 1, 2021By Amjed Jaaved

https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/10/01/pakistan-the-handy-afghan-bete-noire/

International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) published a ‘research’ dossier titled ‘Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A. Q. Khan and the Rise of Proliferation Networks‘. The information in the dossier is largely re-churned old wine in new bottle. Still, there are silver linings in the dossier.

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Despite its pro-India bias, the dossier admits ‘Khan may have acted largely on his own volition, for his own profit’ (page 2). ‘Khan’s nuclear activities were largely unsupervised by Pakistani governmental authorities and his orders of many more components, than Pakistan’s own enrichment programme required, apparently went undetected’ (p. 66). ‘Most of Khan’s dealings were carried on his own initiative’ (DG, IISS, press statement dated may 2, 2007).

The dossier reflects well on Pakistan’s efforts to tighten its nuclear security and safety controls _ The dossier mentions ‘Many of Pakistan’s internal reforms since 2001, and then following Khan’s confession and confinement to house arrest in 2004, have been transparent and appear to have worked well. A robust command-and-control system is now in place to protect Pakistan’s nuclear assets from diversion, theft and accidental misuse. A.Q. Khan and his known cohorts are out of business’.

The dossier also notes that ‘A new defence policy was adopted in March 2004. This policy reportedly intended to “further strengthen institutionalization of control of strategic assets”, and “turn all policies and decisions from an invisible secrecy into solid documentary form following the recent proliferation scandal” (p. 36).

The dossier realises dangerous implications of the 123 agreement (revised version on anvil) for Pakistan. Extract: ‘Fears that the India-US nuclear cooperation agreement will free up Indian domestic uranium for additional weapons purposes gives Pakistan an additional motivation to continue to produce weapons-grade fissile material of its own. Pakistan has resisted any nonproliferation regimes that it believes would give a ‘perpetual edge’ to India. This is one reason Pakistan has been the country most resistant to negotiating a fissile material cut-off treaty’.

Aside from its Pakistan-bashing title, the dossier observes ‘Pakistan was not the only country to evade nuclear export controls to further a covert nuclear weapons programme (page 7). ‘Almost all of the countries that have pursued nuclear weapons programmes obtained at least some of the necessary technologies, tools and materials from suppliers in other countries. Even the United States (which detonated the first nuclear weapon in 1945) utilised refugees and other European scientists for the Manhattan Project and the subsequent development of its nascent nuclear arsenal. The Soviet Union (which first tested an atomic bomb in 1949) acquired its technological foundations through espionage. The United Kingdom (1952) received a technological boost through its involvement in the Manhattan Project. France (1960) discovered the secret solvent for plutonium reprocessing by combing through open-source US literature. China (1964) received extensive technical assistance from the USSR’.

From the dossier, one gets to know that Asher Karni, an Israeli businessman, and Alfred Hempel, an ex Nazi who died in 1989, are co-fathers of India’s ‘indigenous’ bombs. Hempel, a German nuclear entrepreneur, helped India overcome difficulties of heavy-water shortage by organising illicit delivery of a consignment of over 250 tonnes of heavy water to India’s Madras-I reactor, via China, Norway and the USSR. The duo also arranged transfer to India of sensitive nuclear components.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan can repel militants, protect nukes, says US report

https://www.dawn.com/news/1649634/pakistan-can-repel-militants-protect-nukes-says-us-report

Pakistan is capable of repelling any ‘jihadi’ attempt to seize power and of protecting its nuclear weapons, says a report by a prestigious US think-tank.

The Brookings report — “The Agonising Problem of Pakistan’s Nukes” — argues that the Taliban victory in Afghanistan has emboldened militants in Pakistan, stirring fears of a resurgence of militant activities in the country.

“The fear now includes the possibility that jihadis in Pakistan, freshly inspired by the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, might try to seize power at home,” the report claims.

“Trying, of course, is not the same as succeeding. If history is a reliable guide, Pakistan’s professional military would almost certainly respond, and in time probably succeed,” the author, Marvin Kalb, adds.

But the report warns that even a failed attempt could reopen “the floodgates of a new round of domestic warfare between the government and extremist gangs.”

The Brookings report warns that a resurgent insurgency would “leave Pakistan again shaken by political and economic uncertainty.”

The report then turns to another possibility that Pakistan has often warned against — instability in South Asia increases the possibility of a nuclear conflict in the region. Pakistan uses this argument to strengthen its demand for international arbitration to settle the Kashmir and other disputes in India.

The Brookings report does not mention the Kashmir dispute but it acknowledges that “when Pakistan is shaken, so too is India, its less than neighbourly rival and nuclear competitor.”

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

Former President Barack Obama translated this challenge into carefully chosen words: “The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short term, medium term and long term,” he asserted, “would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon.” (Author’s italics).

The nation that has both nuclear weapons and a dangerous mix of terrorists was — and remains — Pakistan.

No problem, really, Pakistan’s political and military leaders have quickly assured a succession of anxious presidents. Whether it be Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tehreek-e-Labaik, al-Qaida, or the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta Shura — these terrorist organizations have always been under our constant surveillance, checked and rechecked. We keep a close eye on everything, even the Islamic madrassas, where more than 2 million students are more likely studying sharia law than economics or history. We know who these terrorists are and what they’re doing, and we’re ready to take immediate action.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/09/28/the-agonizing-problem-of-pakistans-nukes/
Riaz Haq said…
Western Dependence on Pakistan Is Not Going Away
With the Taliban now running Afghanistan, calls are mounting in Washington to punish Pakistan for its alleged support of militant groups.

by Rupert Stone

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/western-dependence-pakistan-not-going-away-194746



First, they still need to evacuate some of their citizens and Afghan helpers who were left behind after the troop withdrawal concluded on August 31. Pakistan’s close ties to the Taliban, its open embassy in Kabul, and its long land border with Afghanistan suggest it could be well placed to facilitate evacuations.

Pakistan already evacuated some Afghans on behalf of Germany in August, prompting an appreciatory message from the German ambassador in Islamabad. Since then, Foreign Minister Heiko Mass has visited Pakistan as part of a regional tour, followed by the Dutch and Italian foreign ministers. U.S. deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman is visiting, too.


Former British foreign secretary Dominic Raab traveled there in September, and his successor Liz Truss recently entertained her Pakistani counterpart. Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan facilitated the departure of Americans from the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, prompting a letter of thanks from Glenn Beck, whose organization was overseeing the evacuation.

Second, there is the issue of refugees. Western governments are concerned that they may see a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis, when more than a million Syrians, Afghans, and others fled to Europe, fueling support for anti-immigrant populist parties. This was not a concern during and after the Soviet war, when Afghans settled mainly in Iran and Pakistan.


Now, however, regional countries appear reluctant to accept any more refugees to the millions they already host. The European Union is, therefore, planning an aid package to fund neighboring countries’ settlement efforts. The UK is also providing more assistance to Pakistan.

A third factor is narcotics. The Afghan illicit drug economy is far larger than it was before the U.S.-led invasion: in 2018, the area under opium poppy cultivation was three times what it was in 2000, and Afghanistan has in recent years diversified into methamphetamine, which was unheard of in the 1990s.


Western counter-narcotics agencies have now lost their foothold in Kabul and will need to rely more on Pakistan as a regional base and partner in addressing the Afghan drug menace. This is more of a problem for European countries than it is for the United States, given that opiates from Afghanistan do not reach America in large quantities.

The fourth issue is, of course, terrorism. The United States is far more concerned about this than it was before 9/11. Indeed, the Biden administration has been working to develop an “over the horizon” counterterrorism capability that will enable it to monitor and neutralize targets from outside Afghanistan.

But this is easier said than done. The country is flanked by U.S. adversaries like China and Iran. Finding a partner to host a U.S. base or grant access to its airspace for airstrikes or commando raids is not a simple task. The Central Asian states are under heavy Russian influence, and Russian president Vladimir Putin has apparently rejected American facilities there.

That leaves Pakistan as the only real option. The Biden administration has reportedly been negotiating with the Pakistani government for basing rights. But as far as we know, these efforts have not yet borne fruit, and Khan has publicly and forcefully opposed hosting U.S. forces.

Without a base in Pakistan, the United States would have to launch drones from the Gulf and fly into Afghanistan through Pakistani airspace. The only alternative is to send flights from the Caucasus over Turkmenistan, which is not only under Chinese and Russian influence but is farther away from the areas of Afghanistan where terrorist organizations tend to operate.
Riaz Haq said…
Moeed W. Yusuf
@YusufMoeed
·
My article in
@ForeignAffairs
, highlighting Pakistan's sacrifices; positive contribution and commitment to peace in Afghanistan - sustainability of which is only possible through constructive global engagement with the new Afghan government.

https://twitter.com/YusufMoeed/status/1446121838434603014?s=20

Afghanistan deserves peace and prosperity, and a blame game among international actors will not get us there. Nor will a repeat of the mistakes of the 1990s, when the United States abandoned Afghanistan and sanctioned Pakistan, its close ally throughout the 1980s, once the Soviets had been driven from Kabul. This isolated the region as international assistance and attention disappeared, placed Afghanistan on a path to civil war and economic meltdown, and strengthened international terrorist outfits—eventually culminating in the 9/11 attacks. Although ordinary Afghans and Pakistanis will always face the greatest risks from instability inside Afghanistan, mass migration flows and terrorism threaten the entire world. It is therefore in every country’s interest to prevent history from repeating itself.

The prudent way forward is for the international community to engage constructively with the new government in Kabul. The goal must be to create the conditions for Afghan civilians to earn a respectable livelihood and to live in peace. This will require the international community, especially the countries that were present in Afghanistan for two decades, to play a positive role in leveraging its influence to further the cause of peace and stability.


Pakistan has been at the forefront of international humanitarian efforts since the fall of Kabul. It has helped evacuate approximately 20,000 foreign citizens and Afghans from the country and has created an air and land bridge to channel emergency supplies to the country. These efforts are important, but diplomatic engagement with Afghanistan must go much further. Afghanistan does not have the resources or the institutional capacity to stave off economic disaster on its own. In order to ensure a durable peace, the international community must determine the means through which development assistance can be provided while ensuring that its concerns about the situation in the country are addressed. But given the precarious humanitarian and economic situation in Afghanistan, time is of the essence. A wait-and-see approach, although more politically tenable for many countries, would be tantamount to abandonment.



Pakistan’s expectations of the new government are no different than those of Western governments: Pakistan wants a state that is inclusive, respects the rights of all Afghans, and ensures that Afghan soil is not used for terrorism against any country. Unlike in the 1990s, the Taliban have repeatedly stated their interest in continued engagement with the world. This is an opportunity for the international community. The leverage generated through assistance and the legitimacy the Taliban will derive from it can be used to secure inclusive governance from the new administration.

Over the past month, Pakistan has led diplomatic initiatives with Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors and other countries in the region to discuss the way forward. We will continue these efforts. However, Western diplomacy needs to be better connected with regional initiatives to forge a common agenda for engagement and decide on the multilateral and bilateral avenues available to channel assistance. A starting point could be a major donor conference where regional players and Western countries sit down together and draw up specific plans for humanitarian and economic relief. An understanding is also required on the terms of the release of the Afghan central bank’s reserves, most of which are held by the United States. Such a forum could also be used to encourage countries that have unfinished development projects in Afghanistan to consider completing them for the benefit of the Afghan people.

Riaz Haq said…
The war in #Afghanistan is over, but the West still needs #Pakistan. "It is too important—and dangerous—to ignore" #Nuclear #Taliban #ISIS_K #Terrorism #US #Europe #NATO #CIA #ISI #India #China #Russia #Iran https://www.economist.com/leaders/2021/10/07/the-war-in-afghanistan-is-over-but-the-west-still-needs-pakistan @TheEconomist

When the last American troops departed from Kabul on August 30th, it meant not only the end of a 20-year campaign in Afghanistan but also the end of Western reliance on neighbouring Pakistan. In that time the country had been an infuriating partner that had helped nato forces with logistics and intelligence even as it provided a haven to the Taliban’s leaders. Now, perhaps America could wash its hands and walk away.

America and its allies have plenty of reasons to feel aggrieved. Pakistan is perpetually sparring with its neighbour, India—which is steadily becoming a vital regional partner for the West. It has close diplomatic and commercial ties with China, to which it provides access to the Indian Ocean, via the Karakoram highway and the port of Gwadar. It is home to lots of Muslim extremists. With a gdp per head that is just two-thirds of India’s and which has in recent years been falling, Pakistan might seem a sensible country to shun.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan struggles to balance ties between #Washington & #Beijing:"Despite Pakistan's longstanding support for Taliban, the group seems unable or unwilling to contain terrorist groups operating within Afghan borders, including those targeting Pakistan" https://p.dw.com/p/41gqL?maca=en-Twitter-sharing

Alice Wells, the US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia under Donald Trump, called the CPEC initiative an "unstainable and unfair" debt for Pakistan during a visit to Islamabad last year.

Pakistan rejected the US's criticism of CPEC last year. The Chinese embassy in Islamabad at the time stated that "the US is obsessed with the story it [has] made for CPEC."

Last month, Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan, Masoor Ahmed Khan, held talks with the new Afghan leadership about Kabul's joining CPEC. 

The deteriorating security situation in Pakistan, however, has prompted concerns about how it could hamper Chinese investment in the country, as well as Islamabad-Beijing relations. China has in the past urged Pakistan to improve security for its projects and personnel against possible Pakistani Taliban attacks.

Elizabeth Threlkeld, director of the South Asia program at the Washington-based think tank the Stimson Center, told DW that Pakistan runs the risk of "spillover instability" from Afghanistan, as cross-border terrorism incidents and attacks are carried out in the Balochistan province and tribal areas.

"Despite Pakistan's longstanding support for the Taliban, the group seems unable or unwilling to contain terrorist groups operating within Afghan borders, including those targeting Pakistan," she said.



Shuja Nawaz, a South Asia analyst at the Atlantic Council in Washington, told DW that Pakistan should maintain ties with both the United States and China, saying it "need not try to swing" between the two.

"China is an important neighbor and friend. The US and Pakistan have long historical ties," Nawaz said.  

"Pakistan needs to act in its own interest in reshaping its relations with the United States so it is not dependent on the Americans nor does it have to deceive them about its actions on their behalf," Nawaz added.

Threlkeld said Pakistan "will be hard pressed to maintain positive relations with the US" as "US interest wanes and frustration grows over Pakistan's support for the Taliban."

"While it might be tempting to focus solely on its ties with Beijing, Islamabad knows it must continue to engage with Washington," she said.

"The US, likewise, continues to need Pakistan for counterterrorism support in Afghanistan," she added.

Pakistan in need of 'a deep public debate'
Nawaz said Pakistan would need to engage in dialogue on its foreign policy stance. He says civilian and the military leadership must take a unilateral stance, and avoid short-term foreign policy strategies.

"Pakistan needs a deep public debate on its foreign policy in Parliament and then an articulation of the principles of its foreign policy for the next 10 years," he said. "No zigzags or short-term deals, which have been a recent pattern."

Pakistan "must not exaggerate the value of a telephone call with Biden again and again," Nawaz said. It is "important for the groundwork to be done at lower levels," before Biden and Khan speak with one another, he added.

"More importantly, Islamabad and Rawalpindi [where the Pakistani military headquarters is based] must speak with one voice to Washington, DC," he said. 

Riaz Haq said…
"#US policy in #Afghanistan is now reduced to “women and girls,” which ignores that leaders in Central & South Asia are also responsible for women & girls. #America should not allow its differences with the #Taliban to block regional #trade arrangements" https://thehill.com/opinion/international/577672-central-asia-south-asia-connectivity-may-hinge-on-pakistan-us-relations

BY JAMES DURSO, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 10/20/21 05:40 PM EDT

What should the U.S. do?

Don’t be the spoiler: Blocking projects that may benefit the economies of Afghanistan and Pakistan will push Central and South Asia into the arms of Russia and China.

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Connectivity between Central Asia and South Asia is needed if the regions are to escape the gravitation pull of Russia and China. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which border Afghanistan, have established relations with the Taliban government as many key economic projects require stability in Afghanistan.

In February 2021, representatives of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan agreed to a roadmap for the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway project, a 600-km track to be built over five years. The rail project will run alongside regional power projects — the 1,000-megawatt Surkhan-Puli-Khumri high-voltage power line and the 1,300-megawatt CASA-1000 energy project — that supply power to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The final key project is the stalled 1,100-mile Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural-gas pipeline that can ship 33 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas annually, and will relieve Ashgabat of Beijing’s leverage as China currently receives 90 percent of Turkmenistan’s gas.

Pakistan has successfully arbitraged its location by supporting the U.S. in two wars in Afghanistan and reaping significant financial benefits in the process. It is a partner with China in the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the largest project in the Belt and Road Initiative. Now Pakistan may be Central Asia’s partner linking the region to maritime trade routes via the ports of Karachi and Gwadar, and Pakistan’s large internal market of over 200 million people, 60 percent of them under the age of 30.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. and Pakistan weren’t even fighting the same war. U.S. officials have accused Pakistan of a “double game,” but Islamabad was eyeing the “next game” — the conflict with India. The U.S. anticipated a formal end of hostilities after it defeated the Taliban and restructured Afghan society, but Pakistan knew even if the U.S. departed in victory, it would still have India to contend with and war in Afghanistan was just a way to position itself for the next phase of the struggle. Pakistan could use the Taliban to build “strategic depth,” recruit fighters it could deploy against India in Kashmir, and be paid for helping Uncle Sam. The Pakistani generals were channeling Paul von Hindenburg who, when he recommended the annexation of the Baltic Provinces into the German Empire said, “I need them for the maneuvering of my left wing in the next war.”

America sees wars as finite events that end at Appomattox Courthouse or on the battleship Missouri; Pakistan sees war as a process.

U.S. policy in Afghanistan is pretty much now just “women and girls,” which ignores that leaders in Central and South Asia are also responsible for women and girls. The U.S. should not allow its differences with the Taliban to block regional trade arrangements — which will have to include the Kabul government — and thereby hand a political win (and financial windfall) to Russia and China by limiting the region’s trade options.

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, the “Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act of 2021,” that, among other things, directs the Biden administration to “develop a revised strategy for South and Central Asia,” and also requires an assessment of Pakistan’s support for the Taliban from 2001 to 2021.
Riaz Haq said…
US nearing a formal agreement to use Pakistan's airspace to carry out military operations in Afghanistan
By Natasha Bertrand, Oren Liebermann, Zachary Cohen and Ellie Kaufman, CNN


https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/22/politics/us-pakistan-afghanistan-airspace/index.html


The Biden administration has told lawmakers that the US is nearing a formalized agreement with Pakistan for use of its airspace to conduct military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, according to three sources familiar with the details of a classified briefing with members of Congress that took place on Friday morning.

Pakistan has expressed a desire to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in exchange for assistance with its own counterterrorism efforts and help in managing the relationship with India, one of the sources said. But the negotiations are ongoing, another source said, and the terms of the agreement, which has not been finalized, could still change.
The briefing comes as the White House is still trying to ensure that it can carry out counterterrorism operations against ISIS-K and other adversaries in Afghanistan now that there is no longer a US presence on the ground for the first time in two decades after the NATO withdrawal from the country.

With no formal agreement currently in place, the US runs the risk of Pakistan refusing entry to US military aircraft and drones en route to Afghanistan.
A Pentagon spokesman said the Defense Department does not comment on closed briefings due to security classifications. CNN has reached out to the National Security Council, State Department and Pakistan embassy in Washington for comment.

At the same time, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are emerging as the top options for possible locations to establish a US military presence to conduct so-called over-the-horizon operations in Afghanistan, the sources said, but both would run into severe opposition from Russian President Vladimir Putin and some local politicians. "Both are long shots," one source said, calling them "likely pipe dreams due to needing Putin's blessing."

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