REVIEW ARTICLE: STEVE COLL, ‘DIRECTORATE S’. THE C.I.A. AND AMERICA’S SECRET WARS IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN, 2001-2016 (APRIL 18, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Written by Olivier Immig

Review article – Steve Coll, ‘Directorate S’. The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016. Penguin Random House, UK, 2018, 757 p.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
By OLIVIER IMMIG

Arriving fourteen years after his highly successful ‘Ghost Wars’, published in 2004, ‘Directorate S’. The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016, is the second volume of what Coll calls a ‘journalistic history’.

As Coll puts it at the end of his Introduction (p. 7): “This (book) is the story of Directorate S”. Which sounds quite promising, but which is not solely what the book is about. Rather, it is a meticulously researched work on the US military, secret services, policies and persons of the US administrations of Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama, Pakistan’s military leadership, and some key Afghan leaders and processes. This makes the book primarily a richly informed story about the major forces shaping the course of the Afghan war since at least 2001, including the ‘Directorate’. It is filling in a lot of details on a number of subjects, owing to hundreds of Coll’s interviews, and owing to information made public through Wikileaks.

Coll candidly states that he ‘understands the American system best’ (p. 689). He is chronologically telling the story of the war in Afghanistan by the US and its allies here, although the efforts of ‘Western allies’ receive scant attention. As former UK Ambassador to Kabul (2007-2011) Sherard Cowper-Coles remarked, ‘all real decisions on Afghanistan were taken in Washington, not in Kabul or London’. (Cowper-Coles, Cables from Kabul, 2011, p. 50).

As Coll repeatedly and correctly says, initially the US Bush-administration clearly lacked understanding about the way the Pakistani Army worked, especially its Inter Service Intelligence (I.S.I.) bureau. Or about Afghan society, for that matter; Bush’s national security cabinet included … nobody who knew Afghanistan well (Coll, p.64). Zalmay Khalilzad, senior director for Afghanistan at the White House’s National Security Council and US Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, should be excluded from this harsh judgement. As former Taliban Ambassador to Islamabad Abdul Salam Zaeef explained: “As an Afghan you are always more than one thing: your kin, your tribe, your ethnicity and the place you were born; all are part of you”. (Abdul Salam Zaeef, My life with the Taliban, 2010, p.2). Complicated, indeed.
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IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S WESTERN FRONTIERS RESTIVE – THE PAKHTUN AWAKENING (APRIL 18, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s Western Frontiers Restive: The Pakhtun Awakening
SOURCE: South Asia Analysis Group
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
By SUBHASH KAPILA

Pakistan’s Western Frontiers comprising Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunwa Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), have been restive for decades but recent Pakhtuns widespread protests in Islamabad and in rest of Pakistan has been described by Pakistani columnists as “The Awakening” and the “Pakhtuns Spring”.

That this new phenomenon emerging on Pakistan’s domestic politics milieu is worrisome can be judged from a virtual blackout imposed on Pakistani media, obviously on orders of the Establishment. Easily dismissed as a limited occurrence but surely, it cannot be wished away when it is kept in mind that this discontent is seething for decades.

This when added to the ongoing insurgency in Balochistan—Pakistan’s largest Province abutting both Afghanistan and Iran, and both emerging in 2018 from Pakistan Army’s protection of China’s flagship project the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Gwadar Port the terminal of the CPEC, is a dangerous challenge for the Pakistan Army.

Pakistan’s Western Frontiers emerging restive and turbulent can prove a security concern for the United States in relation to Afghanistan and for India with Pakistan ranting that India is behind all these events.

Neither Afghanistan nor Iran which are contiguous to Pakistan’s Western Borderlands can be held responsible for the restiveness in these Regions.

The restiveness and turbulence here stands generated by the acts of omission and commission of the Pakistan Army which traditionally has managed these Regions with a heavy hand like the British colonial rule oblivious to the fact that both the NWFP and Balochistan belatedly and under military pressure opted for joining Pakistan. They therefore deserved more care and nurturing of their urges for economic and social development.
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IN THE NEWS: CPEC – CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS (APRIL 18, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

CPEC — challenges and solutions
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Wednesday, April 18, 2017
By SADRUDDIN

Gilgit-Baltistan is home to over 50 mountain peaks above 7,000 metres and three of the world’s largest glaciers that are also the greatest pure water storage assets for Pakistan. According to estimates by G-B’s Water and Power Department, around 45,000MW of hydropower can be produced through utilisation of these water resources. Yet due to the altitudinal factors, G-B has a mountain ecosystem vulnerable to climate change and one likely to be affected by the industrial and business developments in future.

G-B has been in the spotlight following CPEC’s initiation. A project of scale as huge as CPEC is pivotal to the economic and social development of the populace of the region, generating more of income avenues, investment options and opportunities of capital utilisation. While simultaneously providing more prospects for cultural exchange, interaction and diversification. Nevertheless it has an unavoidable cost attached to it.

Massive industrial development along the routes starting from Kashgar in Xinjiang, China, to Abbottabad in K-P, Pakistan, will damage the ecological system and the scenic beauty of the region. The biggest threat will be of the traffic emissions moving through this route.

With CPEC, demand for petroleum products set to grow

According to a research study, a single 22-wheeler truck vehicle produces 931g of carbon dioxide per km. From Khunjarab Pass to the Bhasha Dam site, a 427km-long northern and southern boundaries of G-B, stretching on the Karakoram Highway, a single truck will emit 396.6kgs of carbon dioxide. CO2 emission will be heavier, 2913.1kgs, in one trip from Kashgar to Gwadar. With current capacity of KKH, for less than 1,000 trucks per day from China to Pakistan, with the expected maturity of road routes, by around 2035, it is projected that about 12,000 trucks will enter and leave Pakistan, making a total of 24,000 trucks running through the route per day.
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IN THE NEWS: SALT MINE CONTRACT CANCELLED AFTER LITHIUM, URANIUM FOUND (APRIL 17, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Salt Mine Contract Cancelled After Lithium, Uranium Found
SOURCE: TOLO News
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
By ZABIHULLAH JEHANMAL

Ministry of Mines and Petroleum on Monday said they have terminated the extraction contract of Herat’s Ghoryan salt mine signed with a private company two months ago following the discovery of minerals including lithium and uranium.

The spokesman for the ministry of mines Abdul Qadir Mutfi said their recent studies showed that these minerals are present at the mine. As such they have terminated the contract with the contractor, he said.

Ghoryan salt mine is the only mining contract to have been signed by the National Unity Government (NUG).

“This was a small contract and was contracted as a pilot extraction, but we are trying to ensure the country’s mines are extracted based on the country’s needs,” Mutfi said.

The contractors were not however happy about the new development and said it took them two years and a lot of money to secure the contract.

Nasir Ahmad Tahiri, the head of the contracting company, said in addition to preliminary investments made in the mine, they have had to pay money to meet the conditions of the contract.

According to Tahiri, the termination of the contract means a huge financial loss to them.

“The economic council and mining ministry worked on this mine for two years. It should be asked why the ministry of mines did not assess the mine to find out if there was salt or something else (before awarding the contract),” said Tahiri.
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IN THE NEWS: PROTESTS LOOM IN PAKISTAN OVER CHINA’S JAILING OF MEN’S UYGHUR WIVES (APRIL 17, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Protests loom in Pakistan over China’s jailing of men’s Uyghur wives
SOURCE: Asia Times
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
By KUNWAR KHULDUNE SHAHID and SAIKAT DATTA

A major protest against the Chinese government is being plotted by Pakistani men who say that their wives have been detained in China’s Xinjiang province, Asia Times has learnt. If not addressed in time, the fallout could adversely affect the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as well as the Belt Road Initiative (BRI).

The men, mostly businessmen from the Gilgit-Baltistan region, say that their wives, of Uyghur ethnicity, are being kept in camps by Chinese authorities.

Beijing has initiated a crackdown against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, which borders Gilgit-Baltistan, saying some had ties with Islamist extremists in the region. But Pakistani government officials say that the Uyghurs have been detained as a part of China’s plan to “re-educate” them and better integrate the ethnic group with the rest of the country.

“The Chinese government feels that the only way to undo the Islamist indoctrination of the local Uyghurs is by initiating what you can call an unlearning process, where they are taught supremacy of Chinese sovereignty over religion,” a senior diplomat told Asia Times. “So they have created these re-education schools to teach the Uyghurs about what their government feels is mandatory to be a ‘true Chinese citizen.”

Wives in Chinese prisons

Diplomatic sources have confirmed that many Pakistani men, whose wives come from Xinjiang, have filed complaints with the Pakistani embassy in Beijing, saying their wives and their families have been detained and not allowed to get in touch with them. Some of the couples have been married for over 20 years.
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IN THE NEWS: AFGHANISTAN ON THE BRINK: CAN THE TALIBAN NEGOTIATE WITH KABUL? (APRIL 16, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, April 16th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghanistan on the brink: Can the Taliban negotiate with Kabul?
SOURCE: Herald/Dawn
Monday, April 16, 2019
By SHAHAB UD DIN AHMAD

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has offered the Taliban talks without preconditions and with the possibility of political recognition. And the US State Department has supported the announcement despite President Donald Trump earlier pointing towards an increase in military pressure on the insurgency. This comes amid reports released last year by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) stating that the Taliban controlled or contested 43 per cent of Afghanistan’s districts.

The focus on what international actors can do to facilitate the process is warranted given their history of involvement in the country’s affairs.

However, there is an equally urgent need to debate whether ‘peace’ with the Afghan Taliban is achievable on the ground. This has a great deal to do with the insurgency’s political, military and organisational outlook and whether it is willing to or even able to negotiate an enforceable agreement with Kabul in the future.

I focus on two particular aspects of the insurgency in this regard. The impact that the organisational growth and subsequent factionalism can have on the peace process, and the insurgency’s relations with civilian populations as a lens through which to speculate on the prospects for structural and attitudinal changes that might facilitate a peace process.

PART I: Fragmentation, factionalism and the prospects for negotiations

Put simply, fragmented, factionalised and undisciplined insurgencies can prove to be impossible to negotiate with. A lack of guarantees and poor enforcement mechanisms on part of the rebel forces impede the peace process and elongate violence. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN REJECTS GHANI’S CALL FOR THEM TO TAKE PART IN ELECTIONS (APRIL 16, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, April 16th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban Rejects Ghani’s Call For Them To Take Part In Elections
SOURCE: TOLO News
Monday, April 16, 2018
By FARIDULLAH HUSSAINKHAIL

*The Taliban’s statement comes after the president called on the group two days ago to prepare themselves for elections

The Taliban has rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s call for the group to take part in the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections.

In a statement issued by the group on Sunday night, they reiterated their stance that Afghanistan is an occupied country.

This comes after Ghani on Saturday officially launched the voter registration process and signed up to vote in the upcoming elections.

Speaking at the event, Ghani reiterated the peace offer made in February to the Taliban and said they must end the war and register as a political group.

He also said the Taliban should prepare themselves to take part in the elections adding that elections were a means to end disagreements.

But the Taliban said in their statement that Afghanistan is occupied, with thousands of foreign troops in the country and that major political and military decisions are “taken by the occupiers”. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN WAR A ZERO-SUM GAME FOR THE US (APRIL 15, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan war a zero-sum game for the US
SOURCE: Daily Times
Sunday, April 15, 2018
By TARIQ RAHIM

Situation in Afghanistan is getting worse with the latest wave of attacks. These attacks have killed dozens of people and injured hundreds.

This is evident of US failures in Afghanistan and militants’ success of getting strong foothold even after 16 years of war. The resurgence of terrorists and their coordinated attacks are very alarming for peace in Afghanistan. With the announcement of Trump’s strategy for south Asia and rising number of deadliest attacks raises questions for stable and peaceful Afghanistan in years to come.

Recent wave of attacks at high security points reveals reorganization and capacity of insurgents to do attacks even after massive escalation in US air strikes. Afghan Taliban claimed the responsibility of the first two attacks while the third one was reportedly carried out by the militant Islamic State (IS).The uncertain situation in Afghanistan is very disturbing with the rise of militant attacks at the heart of Afghanistan.

It is extremely worrisome due to the fact that insurgents in Afghanistan have shifted their strategy to focusing on the capital rather than gaining territorial control. There seems a competition between Afghan Taliban and Islamic State to make Kabul a horrifying place for security forces with increased attacks. Attacking the capital of Afghanistan serves the objective of militant groups to demoralize Afghan and foreign security forces.

Afghan Taliban and IS seem to be in a carnage competition

However, Afghan National Army has done a great job and improved the operational performance significantly but it still lacks capabilities to tackle hardcore and organized terrorist attacks. Lack of competence in Afghan security forces has been exposed due to frequent security lapses in the capital. The situation in Afghanistan is extremely grave as IS is gaining grounds while Afghan Taliban have control in most parts of the country. Islamic State has been fighting both Taliban and Afghan security forces and has claimed several high-profile terrorist attacks in recent months. IS has made inroads in northern and eastern provinces of Afghanistan resulting in the increase in attacks and civilian casualties. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: EXIT SHARIF – AGAIN (APRIL 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Saturday, April 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

EXIT SHARIF—AGAIN
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Saturday, April 14, 2018

*NAWAZ SHARIF’S ‘FOR LIFE’ BAN FROM POLITICS HERALDS THE NADIR OF POLITICAL STABILITY IN PAKISTAN

On April 13—Friday the 13th—the Supreme Court of Pakistan decided that ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, controversially disqualified from office last year, would not be able to contest elections for the rest of his life. Per the ruling, any politician that falls foul of Article 62(1)(f), a remnant of the judicial irrationality of General Zia’s Islamizing dictatorship that compares lawmakers to the pristine character of Islam’s Prophet, is declared unfit for office in perpetuity. For many, the ruling was comeuppance for Sharif, who refused to remove the offending article from the Constitution despite having the parliamentary numbers to pull it off. Now he is gone from national politics because he is not “sadiq” (truthful) and “ameen” (trustful) like Islam’s Prophet.

First, he was removed from prime ministership through the Panama Case, involving money laundering via offshore companies. The court, which was considered hostile by his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), started a case-building process through a Joint Investigative Team that included officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence, and then got a National Accountability Bureau court to try him in cases that could land him in jail in addition to disqualifying him as a future prime minister. He was finally removed by the Supreme Court on the basis of a controversial “iqama” (residential permit in the Gulf States) payment, which he neglected to mention in his tax returns. The media was against him and the professional legal opinion was divided, including among the country’s top lawyers, S.M. Zafar and Wasim Sajjad, who thought the court had crossed valid limits. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: BATTLEGROUND PUNJAB (APRIL 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, April 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Battleground Punjab
SOURCE: The News International
Friday, April 13, 2018
By KHALID BHATTI

The road to Islamabad goes through Punjab. No leader or party can dream to form a federal government without winning a good number of seats from this province.

Punjab is the battleground from where Pakistan’s control is gained. Since the province comprises the largest population among all the provinces, any party winning a significant majority from Punjab can form a government in Islamabad – either single-handedly or in coalition with one or more partners, depending on the number of seats won by it in the province.

In the upcoming general elections too Punjab will be the real battleground, as it will not only decide the fate of the PML-N and PTI but will also decide who forms the next government in Islamabad. The stakes are very high and the PTI, PPP and other emerging forces are preparing to take on the PML-N. In a stable and strong democracy it is the voters who decide the fate of political leaders and parties, but, unfortunately, we are not lucky enough to decide our own destination and future. Hence, it will be the powers that be and a handful of feudal, capitalist and influential electables who decide the outcome of the next elections. The party that embraces the maximum number of electables will win the most seats in Punjab.

It is not like the democratic process or system is not manipulated in the west, but hardly anybody can match our skills in this regard. What is more interesting is that democracy and elections are manipulated within the orbit of democracy and the constitution.
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