Posts Tagged ‘Taliban’

Afghan Taliban reject talks with U.S. in Pakistan

January 19, 2019

The Afghan Taliban rejected reports in the Pakistani media that they were prepared to resume meetings with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad and repeated their refusal to deal directly with the Afghan government.

Pakistani newspapers and television stations reported that a meeting in Islamabad was in prospect following discussions between Khalilzad and Pakistani officials including Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday.

Senior Taliban leaders said that regional powers including Pakistan had approached them and wanted them to meet the U.S. delegation in Islamabad and also include the Afghan government in the peace process but that the approaches had been rejected.

Zalmay Khalilzad met with Pakistan’s foreign minister to discuss the Afghan peace process. (File/AFP)

“We wanted to make it clear that we will not hold any meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a statement.

Talks between the two sides have stalled after the Taliban accused Khalilzad of straying from the agreed agenda and there is no clarity on when they may resume.

Imran Khan lashed out at US President Donald Trump on November 18, 2018, following his remarks that Pakistan doesn’t “do a damn thing” for the United States despite billions of dollars in US aid for the South Asian nation. (Faisal Mahmood/REUTERS)

“We have made it clear again and again that we would never hold any meeting with the Afghan government as we know that they are not capable of addressing our demands,” said one senior Taliban leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Afghan Taliban

The United States says any settlement in Afghanistan must be between the internationally recognized Afghan government and the Taliban, who have so far refused to talk to an administration they describe as an illegitimate puppet regime.

The Taliban leader said peace talks with the U.S. delegation could resume if they were assured that only three issues would be discussed – a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, an exchange of prisoners and lifting a ban on the movement of Taliban leaders.

Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Thursday and met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and other officials.

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Shah Mehmood Qureshi, second from the rights

“The two sides reviewed developments post Abu Dhabi, in order to take the Afghan peace process forward,” a foreign office statement said. An Afghan Taliban delegation had a round of talks last month with U.S. officials in Abu Dhabi.

The statement didn’t give any further details on the talks, but several local TV channels reported that Pakistan agreed to host the next round of talks between the Afghan Taliban and the United States in Islamabad.

Khalilzad, an Afghan-born veteran U.S. diplomat who served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, was named by the Trump administration four months ago as a special envoy to negotiate peace.

Washington has long been pushing Islamabad to lean on Taliban leaders, who it says are based in Pakistan, to bring them to the negotiating table.

It often accuses the south Asian nation of covertly sheltering Taliban leaders, an accusation Islamabad vehemently denies.

The United States, which had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at its peak during the first term of former President Barack Obama, withdrew most of them in 2014 but still keeps around 14,000 there.

Additional reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Michael Perry



Afghan president thanks PM Khan for Pakistan’s ‘sincere facilitation’ of peace efforts

January 17, 2019

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday telephoned Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss the ongoing international efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

During the call, Ghani “expressed his gratitude for Pakistan’s sincere facilitation of these efforts” that were initiated by US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Imran Khan. — AFP/File
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Imran Khan. — AFP/File

Khan assured the Afghan president that Pakistan was making “sincere efforts for a negotiated settlement” of the Afghan conflict through an inclusive peace process, “as part of shared responsibility”.

Read: How Pakistan can help with the Afghan peace process

Ghani invited the premier to visit Afghanistan at his earliest convenience and Khan reciprocated by inviting the Afghan president to visit Pakistan.

Talks between the Taliban, US officials have hit a roadblock after the hardline militants cancelled the fourth round. — File
Talks between the Taliban, US officials have hit a roadblock after the hardline militants cancelled the fourth round. — File

“Both leaders also agreed to remain engaged and create an environment for resolving all outstanding issues,” the press release said.

The conversation between the two leaders comes as Khalilzad earlier today arrived in Pakistan as part of a regional tour to four countries for talks on the Afghan peace process.

According to the Foreign Office, the US special envoy is expected to meet Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders during his stay and he will ask Pakistan to help convince the Afghan Taliban to come to the negotiating table. “Pakistan has also maintained [that] we want an Afghan-led Afghan-owned solution to [the] imbroglio,” the FO spokesperson said in a statement.

Pakistan is believed to be making serious efforts to arrange a meeting between Khalilzad and Afghan Taliban leaders in Islamabad to help break the deadlock and speed up the Afghan peace process, Dawn reported.

The US envoy is actively trying to broker a political solution to the Afghan conflict and has held multiple meetings with the leadership of Afghanistan as well as that of other countries in the region, including Pakistan.

He has also held three rounds of talks with the Afghan Taliban in order to reach a settlement that would allow the US to withdraw its army and end a 17-year-old war — America’s longest.

See also:

Peace talks with Taliban will happen soon: US envoy

Taliban to quit peace talks if US troops are not pulled out of Afghanistan

January 17, 2019

Trump’s weakness in Syria strengthened Taliban resolve….

“We had 40 years of war so one should not expect a quick resolution of the crisis. The first priority for peace is for Afghanistan and Pakistan to settle their historical differences.”

The Taliban has objected to government involvement in its meetings with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan. (Courtesy Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The Taliban said on Tuesday they would call off peace talks with the US if its troops were not pulled out of Afghanistan. The threat came as the US special envoy landed in Kabul.

Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul to brief the government and politicians on his engagement in the region regarding the peace process.

Last month, it was reported that President Donald Trump had ordered the withdrawal of thousands of troops.

But there has been speculation the US wants to keep some military bases in Afghanistan, and that it is pushing the Taliban to hold direct talks with Kabul.

The Taliban has objected to government involvement in its meetings with Khalilzad and wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan.

The armed group said the US must pursue the peace talks with “sincere intentions” or it would be forced to stall all talks and negotiations until its “unlawful pressures and maneuvering” ended.

“The United States agreed during the Doha meeting in November to discuss the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and prevent Afghanistan from being used against other countries in the upcoming meeting,” the Taliban said, accusing the US of “backing out from that agenda and unilaterally adding new subjects.”

The US Embassy in Kabul said Khalilzad was meeting President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah, and political leaders to discuss the next steps in efforts to support and facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

His arrival in Kabul followed stops in India, the UAE and China.

Mohammad Akbari, one of those at the meeting, said Khalilzad had expressed optimism about his efforts and regional cooperation but had not revealed why he was so hopeful.

Khalilzad later tweeted about the “good session” in Kabul.

“We discussed the peace process & all agree that progress depends on Afghans sitting with each other, negotiating a future for all Afghan people,” he said.

The US Embassy said the goal was to promote dialogue among Afghans about how to end the conflict, and to encourage parties to come together at the negotiating table to reach a political settlement in which every Afghan citizen “enjoyed equal rights and responsibilities under the rule of law.”

Ahmad Zia Rafat, a political science professor, said peace talks in a normal country faced ups and downs but there would be more hurdles when it came to Afghanistan because of the war’s complexity.

“We had 40 years of war so one should not expect a quick resolution of the crisis. The first priority for peace is for Afghanistan and Pakistan to settle their historical differences,” he told Arab News.

“If you have consensus in a realistic manner between these two countries, then you are depriving the Taliban from a key supporter, long believed to be Pakistan. Then you can forge consensus in the region and reintegrate the Taliban in the political mainstream.”

Arab News

US seeks Pakistan’s help for coaxing Taliban back into talks

January 16, 2019

Senior US official Lisa Curtis on Tuesday opened her visit to Pakistan with meetings amidst reports that the process of engagement with the Taliban for restarting the Afghan peace process had stalled.

US Special Envoy for Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Amb Zalmay Khalilzad, who too was due in Islamabad, could not reach here because of changes in his itinerary. Amb Khalilzad in his latest trip to the region has faced several unexpected changes. He is currently in Afghanistan.

US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad during a news conference in Kabul. (AP/files)

“His schedule has been fluid all week,” a diplomatic source said, adding that the special envoy was likely to visit Islamabad in the next few days.

No details about Ms Curtis’ meetings were publicly available. She is believed to be here to push for resumption of engagement with the Taliban in addition to certain bilateral issues.

Pakistan last month facilitated a meeting between the US special envoy and Taliban representatives in Abu Dhabi. UAE and Saudi officials attended the meeting as observers. It was agreed at the Abu Dhabi meeting that the process would continue and another meeting would be convened, but no date and venue for the next interaction has been set so far.

A diplomatic source said: “The Taliban are refusing to talk to the Afghan government. The US wants Pakistan to pressure Pakistan-based Taliban leadership to accept direct negotiations with the Afghan government.” The Pakistani government, he further said, was insisting that it had little control over the Taliban.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, meanwhile, talking to president of the East-West Institute and former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said: “Pakistan fully supports a political settlement in Afghanistan which is the only viable option to end this conflict.”

Mr Khan emphasised the need for ensuring regional security so that economic progress could take place.

Mr Munter said he continued to advocate strong relationship between Islamabad and Washington as Pakistan was an important country of the region and critical to US national security objectives.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2019

Bill for delisting Pakistan as major ally tabled in US Congress

January 14, 2019

A bill seeking to remove Pakistan from a list of America’s major non-Nato allies has been introduced in the US Congress, even though the Trump administration enhances its contacts with Islamabad in its pursuit of a peaceful end to the Afghan war.

The resolution — introduced by Congressman Andy Biggs who, like the Trump administration, is a Republican — sets new conditions for future re-designation.

Also read: Pak-US ties should not be viewed only through Afghan or Indian lens, says FM Qureshi

Trump administration is unlikely to support move. — File photo
Trump administration is unlikely to support move. — File photo

If a US president desires to put Pakistan back on the list, he or she will have to certify to Congress that Pakistan continues to conduct military operations that are contributing to significantly disrupting the “safe haven and freedom of movement” of the Haqqani Network in the country.

The president also has to certify that Pakistan has shown progress in arresting and prosecuting Haqqani Network’s senior leaders and mid-level operatives.

Take a look: Pakistan has given us nothing but lies and deceit, says US President Donald Trump

The re-designation will require another certification from Congress that Pakistan has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to preventing the Haqqani Network from using any Pakistani territory as a safe haven and that Pakistan actively cooperates with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Known as Resolution H.R. 73, the bill has been sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee for necessary action.

Mr Biggs, a second-term legislator, has no cosponsor and his move will need a strong support from the Trump administration and the Democratic Party to pass a House dominated by the Democrats.

In recent statements, President Donald Trump has clearly expressed his desire to withdraw at least half of the 14,000 US troops still stationed in Afghanistan.

Senior Democrats — both in and outside Congress — have also said that the United States cannot remain involved in these apparently unending wars in Afghanistan and Syria.

But before an ultimate withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Trump administration wants to ensure that the pullout does not lead to the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government in Kabul.

To achieve this target, the US has initiated a series of dialogues with the Taliban leadership, hoping to make them participate in a future set-up in Kabul as partners of the Afghan government.

The fourth round of US-Taliban talks, which was to be held last week either in Riyadh or Doha, had to be postponed after Taliban refused to sit with Kabul’s representatives.

The Trump administration wants Afghanistan’s neighbours, particularly Pakistan, to use their influence to persuade the Taliban to stay engaged and accept the Kabul government. Washington believes that Islamabad can play a key role in making this possible.

Last week, the US once again sent its special envoy for Afghanistan to the region with a task to convince Pakistan, India and China to work together to ensure the success of the Afghan peace initiative.

It is unlikely that the Trump administration would encourage any move to further isolate Pakistan in the present circumstances.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2019

Imran-Trump meeting top priority for new Pakistan envoy

January 8, 2019
Both countries are exploring the possibility of Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to Washington for a meeting with US President Donald Trump. — File photo
Both countries are exploring the possibility of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington for a meeting with US President Donald Trump. — File photo

On Jan 2, US President Donald Trump expressed his desire to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan for talks on US-led efforts to jump-start the Afghan peace process. “I look forward to meeting the folks from the new leadership in Pakis­tan [and] we will be doing that in not-too-distant future,” he said.

This week, reports in the US, Pakistani and Indian media claimed that both Washington and Islamabad are exploring the possibility of bringing Mr Khan to Washington for a White House meeting with President Trump.

Diplomatic sources in Washington, however, say that such a meeting can only materialise if there’s a tangible progress in US-Taliban talks.

The two sides have already held several meetings but the next round, scheduled in Saudi Arabia later this month, is still being finalised.

Ambassador Majeed, who was Pakistan’s deputy ambassador in Washington till 2015, is expected to focus on this proposal as a trade partnership would be more durable.

Also important for him is to revive Pakistanis lobbies on the Hill that once played an effective role in promoting bilateral ties but have become ineffective due to internal disputes and lack of interest. Ambassador Siddiqui did make some efforts to revive this tradition but he could only do so much in his brief tenure.

The new envoy’s efforts to re-engage with the Pakistani-Ameri­can community will be restricted by a US ban that prohibits Pakis­tani diplomats from travelling outside of a 25-mile radius around Washington without approval.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2019

Pakistan Still Unable To Say The Tribal Areas Are Safe, Governed, Free of Taliban

January 6, 2019

THE legal limbo and financial vacuum in the settled tribal districts, the region formerly known as Fata, has finally received much-needed attention from the relevant government quarters. A high-level meeting convened to address administrative, financial and legal issues in the settled tribal districts achieved a significant breakthrough when it was decided that the centre, Punjab and KP would contribute up to 3pc of their shares from the federal divisible pool for the immediate needs of the districts.


Fata has been operating in a legal and constitutional void and administrative vacuum for the past 10 days. — File photo
Fata has been operating in a legal and constitutional void and administrative vacuum for the past 10 days. — File photo

While it remains to be seen how soon funds will start to flow to the districts, the decision ought to pave the way for a meaningful implementation of mainstreaming projects in the Fata region. Indeed, the fundamental constitutional, financial and administrative aspects have received insufficient attention by the state and the media, and there is a risk that the unresolved problems could lead to simmering discontent and alienation in a region that is still struggling to recover from the ravages of the decade-long militancy that was once rampant there.

Welcome as the contribution of Punjab  is — and important as the efforts of the KP and federal governments are — the difficulties in upgrading a region that was ruled under anachronistic legal provisions and had some of the poorest socioeconomic indicators in the country can be attributed to two persistent problems in governance: the absence of sufficient resources, and a lack of careful planning. As with the vital 18th Amendment, the transition phase after the abolition of Fata was not adequately planned.

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The legal limbo in the region is also one step closer to resolution following a Supreme Court order last week that a six-month period be given for the introduction of a mainstream justice system in the districts, but that crisis too erupted because the interim governance ordinance for Fata was seemingly drafted in haste and without consulting constitutional experts. While the opposition of PML-N allies in the last parliament prevented the issue of reforms and mainstreaming to be taken up until the last days of the government, it was long known that a so-called mainstreaming project in Fata was imminent, even if the final status of Fata as a separate province or merged with KP was undecided. The Fata reforms commission recognised the importance of an orderly transition, but that realisation did not extend to those actually in charge of the transition.

File picture of Taliban fighter

Second, the problem of inadequate resources to address various projects of national importance will not go away until the state tackles the inadequacies in its revenue and tax strategies. Surely, no reasonable observer would argue that the settled tribal districts not receive a generous share of national resources, but then the state has to have a sustainable strategy of financing those needs. Otherwise, ad hoc desperate strategies will prevail.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2019



Pakistani military patrol border fence.

Photographer: Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images


Taliban threat looms over oil reservoirs in Afghan province

January 4, 2019

Clashes between Taliban militants and government forces have somewhat come to a halt near oil reservoirs in Afghanistan’s northern Sar-e-Pul province.

The Taliban still poses a threat in the area, provincial officials said on Thursday. More than 20 government security forces lost their lives when scores of heavily armed Taliban fighters staged a series of attacks on two oil wells in the province.

An Afghan policeman stands guard near the entrance gate of the Ministry of Public Works a day after a deadly militant attack in Kabul on December 25, 2018. (AFP)

No government reinforcements have arrived despite promises by Kabul to flush out Taliban combatants entrenched near the area, local officials said.

“Reservoirs, vehicles and equipment worth millions of dollars are under threat,” Zabihullah Amani, a spokesman for the province’s governor, told Arab News. “The reservoirs remain with us, but the Taliban are able to launch more attacks.”

Both Mohammad Noor Rahmani, provincial chief council, and Amani said they did not know the reason for the government’s inaction against the Taliban’s growing presence in the province.

“While there has been no fighting since the Taliban attack, they can come at any moment and pose a continuous threat to oil facilities and resources in the area,” Rahmani told Arab News.

An Afghan and Chinese firm used to exploit oil reserves in the wells until six months ago, but stopped after the government objected.

Security officials in Kabul could not be reached for comment about the security situation and the concerns that have been expressed by provincial officials.

While Sar-e-Pul is a considerable distance away from the Taliban’s main bastion of support south and east of the country, the group has managed to make some in-road gains in northern areas in recent years and hundreds of locals have joined the group for different reasons.

Illegal armed groups have also joined Taliban ranks and infiltrate areas rich in minerals, such as lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone, and gold.

Minerals are a solid source of income for the Taliban in their war against Kabul and US-led troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Arab News


Trump’s 2019 Vision: Let Others Fight Our Battles

January 3, 2019

The U.S. president says Afghanistan is Pakistan and Russia’s business and calls Syria nothing but “sand and death.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks alongside Defense Secretary James Mattis during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Dec. 6, 2017. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks alongside Defense Secretary James Mattis during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Dec. 6, 2017. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

In extraordinary and apparently impromptu remarks on Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump indicated that he believes it isn’t in America’s interest to be fighting in either Syria or Afghanistan, which he appears to view as local conflicts best left to regional powers.

In the case of Afghanistan, Trump all but dismissed the nearly two-decade war there as a matter for Afghan neighbors such as Russia and Pakistan to figure out, giving a historically garbled account of Moscow’s experience in Afghanistan and suggesting that the United States shouldn’t follow in the path of the former Soviet Union by draining its resources there. Referring to the 1979-89 Soviet occupation, Trump said: “Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan.”

He went on to say: “So you take a look at other countries—Pakistan is there. They should be fighting. But Russia should be fighting. The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is it was a tough fight.”

The remarks during a 95-minute cabinet meeting at the White House gave new insight into Trump’s vision of Afghanistan and his frustration with the stalemate in that war-torn country—as well as with the generals who have advised him to stay, including his just-departed defense secretary, James Mattis.

“What’s he done for me? How has he done in Afghanistan?” Trump said. “I’m not happy with what he done in Afghanistan, and I shouldn’t be happy.” The president added that he’d “essentially” fired Mattis, though the Marine general resigned in protest over Trump’s announced withdrawal from Syria.

In December 2017, Trump praised Mattis for making headway against Islamic State terrorists and described him as “our great military genius.” “Thanks to Mad Dog Mattis that we have great military leaders. ISIS is being dealt one brutal defeat after another,” he said at a rally in Florida.

But on Wednesday, the president suggested that he might have done better than Mattis and the U.S. generals who have fought in Afghanistan. “I think I would’ve been a good general, but who knows,” he said.

Trump’s comments also revealed that the president’s historical memory is rather limited and somewhat out of touch with reality. While it is true that the former Soviet Union was financially drained by its 10-year campaign in Afghanistan, and collapsed only two years later, there were many other long-term factors in the USSR’s demise. In addition, the Soviets didn’t invade Afghanistan because “terrorists were going into Russia,” as Trump said, but because they wanted to shore up their pro-communist puppet government there.

More importantly, the United States invaded Afghanistan after 9/11 because the then-Taliban-controlled government was harboring al Qaeda, which had attacked the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. The Taliban movement is now resurgent, and numerous intelligence and on-the-ground reports over the years have concluded that Pakistan is supporting the Taliban, not fighting them.

Trump’s comments left many Washington observers aghast. “It seems impossible, but it’s true: President Trump just endorsed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Who’s he working for?” tweeted David Frum, who worked for President George W. Bush during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 and was credited with Bush’s infamous “axis of evil” line.

Other Republicans, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—who has called for a strong U.S. presence in both Syria and Afghanistan—are likely to be incensed by Trump’s remarks.

The president appeared to view the conflict in Syria in a similar way to Afghanistan, suggesting it was not worth any U.S. investment of blood or treasure. “Syria was lost long ago. It was lost long ago. We’re not talking about vast wealth. We’re talking about sand and death. I’m getting out, we’re getting out of Syria. Look, we don’t want Syria,” he said.

Trump said little about the Islamic State, the terrorist group that has threatened U.S. interests and which the president claimed—falsely—in late December was “defeated.” He said it was possible that “a very small percentage” of ISIS will “come to our country,” but that they would want to target Iran and Russia more.

During the cabinet meeting, the president suggested that he wouldn’t pull 2,000 American troops out of Syria right away. “I never said we’re getting out tomorrow. Oh, we’re withdrawing,” he said, adding that it would happen “over a period of time” because he wanted to protect the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in the country.

Even so, Trump also criticized the Kurds, saying, “It’s very interesting. Turkey doesn’t like them. Other people do. I didn’t like the fact that they’re selling the small [amount of] oil that they have to Iran, and we asked them not to sell it to Iran. The Kurds, our partners, are selling oil to Iran. We’re not thrilled about that, OK? I’m not happy about it at all.”

“But we want to protect the Kurds, nevertheless, we want to protect the Kurds,” he continued. “But I don’t want to be in Syria forever. It’s sand. And it’s death.”

He also once again criticized European allies for not taking a bigger role in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He singled out Germany, saying it was “paying 1 percent” of its GDP on defense when it “should be paying 4 percent” and that he “didn’t care” if the Europeans opposed him. “I shouldn’t be popular in Europe. I want Europe to pay. I don’t care about Europe.”

The president suggested that the new acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, agreed with his worldview far more than Mattis did. “We have some great allies, but a lot of our allies were taking advantage of our taxpayers and our country,” Trump said. “We can’t let that happen, and Pat Shanahan agrees with that, and he’s agreed with that for a long time. And that was very important to me. I couldn’t get other people to understand it.”

It is no surprise that Trump—who seems intent on fulfilling his campaign pledges to withdraw U.S. troops from various foreign outposts despite often urgent contrary advice from his national security experts—is deeply frustrated with the lack of progress in Afghanistan. As Foreign Policy reported last fall, even the Pentagon’s top generals admit the war, America’s longest, is in a virtual stalemate between the U.S.-supported government in Kabul and the Taliban. The Taliban are “not losing right now, I think that is fair to say,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during the Halifax International Security Forum on Nov. 17.

But most foreign-policy experts say the Afghan government cannot by itself hold off the Taliban, and to leave Afghanistan to the radical Islamist group would be to invite another 9/11.


Is Pakistan-India ice silently breaking?

January 2, 2019
A needless and potentially self-defeating controversy was set off by Delhi when Navjot Sidhu, a former cricketer and a Sikh politician and a friend of Imran Khan, struck up a spontaneous accord on a visit to Pakistan with the army chief. ─ PID
A needless and potentially self-defeating controversy was set off by Delhi when Navjot Sidhu, a former cricketer and a Sikh politician and a friend of Imran Khan, struck up a spontaneous accord on a visit to Pakistan with the army chief. ─ PID

The announcement of a billion-plus-dollar Indian support to the Maldives late in the year is being seen as a diplomatic manoeuvre to keep China from gaining more influence in South Asia than it already has.

By most accounts, Mr Modi may have missed a big chance to change the discourse with Pakistan in 2018, which would have been to his benefit, even perhaps electorally, and to the region as a whole. But the opportunity to improve bilateral ties, which in turn would usher a better era of regional engagement is bound to come with or without Modi sooner than later.

By Jawed Naqvi

Pakistan’s recent declaration that India’s involvement was needed to resolve the Afghan question comes as a new paradigm to ponder for all concerned, particularly those that have a bigger stake in a peaceful resolution of the blood-drenched conflict.

Consider also that President Trump would not want canvass support for a second term in 2020 with the baggage of American casualties and a virtual defeat at the hands of the Taliban staring him in the face. That is clearly a factor in the fresh assessment he has made with regard to Pakistan’s current and future role in ending the Afghan conflict.

Russia, China and Iran are also weighing in with that objective. India would not wish to be left out from the high table of global diplomacy already underway.

PM Khan is also understood to have hinted that a resolution to the Kashmir imbroglio may not be a distant dream, and speculation is rife about reviving the Dr Manmohan Singh-General Musharraf ‘formula’ to end the tragic stalemate in the valley.

This would inherently come with the added advantage to India of an open-arm welcome to join the economic corridor initiated by China to open up the region to myriad benefits, all packed with affirmation of a shared interest.

The business elite in India would want to agree to a favourable deal in this regard with China and Pakistan.

There is an untenable narrative that a military standoff with Pakistan helps the person in the saddle in Delhi to swing the votes. If that were so, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s vote count would not have fallen but risen in the wake of the Kargil outing.

Similarly, Singh’s refusal to move the military against Pakistan over the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai should have cost him his job. Instead, he won a second term with his phlegmatic appeal that led to Sharm el Sheikh.

Prime Minister Khan has made several overtures in tandem with the military to improve ties with India, and the alacrity with which he moved on the Kartarpur corridor to ease visa-less travel for Sikh pilgrims appears to have taken Delhi by surprise.

The corridor is critical now for both sides as Sikhism’s first Guru is believed to have lived for the last 18 years of his life at the site where the Kartarpur gurdwara was built.

A needless and potentially self-defeating controversy was set off by Delhi when Navjot Sidhu, a former cricketer and a Sikh politician and a friend of Imran Khan, struck up a spontaneous accord on a visit to Pakistan with the army chief.

But perhaps the most important gesture that came from the Pakistan leader in his efforts to mend ties with India has been his reference to the Mumbai nightmare of November 2008 as an act of terrorism, which he said needs to be fully investigated in Pakistan for the country’s own good.

India on its part has repeated its calls for the prosecution of people it says were masterminds and facilitators of the attacks in Mumbai. It blames the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for the carnage, and says Pakistan had shown “little sincerity in bringing the perpetrators to justice”.

In his interview with the Post, Mr Khan said: “We also want something done about the bombers of Mumbai. I have asked our government to find out the status of the case. Resolving that case is in our interest because it was an act of terrorism.”

But he is equally aware of the fraught circumstances he is dealing with. Mr Khan, who spoke about Pakistan taking two steps for peace for every step taken by India in his first speech after his party won the general election, referred to the reasons why he believes his peace overtures had been rejected by New Delhi.

“I know, because India has elections coming up. The ruling party has an anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan approach. They rebuffed all my overtures,” he said. “I have opened a visa-free peace corridor with India called Kartarpur. Let’s hope that after the election is over, we can again resume talks with India.”

Let’s all of us hope too.