Written by admin on Friday, September 15th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

U.S. Plan for New Afghan Force Revives Fears of Militia Abuses
SOURCE: The New York Times
Friday, September 15, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — Around the time President Trump announced his new strategy for Afghanistan, a delegation of American and Afghan military officials arrived in New Delhi.

They wanted to learn more about the Indian Territorial Army, which has been deployed in contentious areas to ease the burden on India’s regular army.

The American military has turned to that force as a potential model for how to maintain the Afghan government’s waning control — without too high a cost — in difficult parts of Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban are resurgent.

But diplomats and human rights groups worry that the proposal looks much like an older model — the Afghan Local Police, local militias who were trained and paid by the Americans but were accused of a long series of human violations, including abuse of civilians and sexual abuse of boys.

The size of the new force is yet to be finalized, but it could number more than 20,000, according to a senior Afghan official who was granted anonymity because the concept is still being discussed.

The new local force would be under the command of the army, and recruits would go through similar training as regular soldiers. But the new force would serve primarily in local communities, holding areas cleared by the regular army, whose units would take on a primarily offensive role.

Afghan officials say the new approach would in fact help rein in an unwieldy array of militias, rather than empower them to commit abuses.
The idea surely appeals to American commanders, like Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.


Written by admin on Friday, September 15th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan Won’t Let Terrorist Organizations Contest Elections. For Now.
SOURCE: The New York Times
Friday, September 15, 2017 (Posted)

Pakistan is home to many Islamist terrorist groups. Some enjoy a permissive environment despite technically being banned by the state. This has enabled them to acquire political power. Politicians sometimes court terrorist leaders to turn out voters.

While researching counterterrorism a few summers ago, I met with a high-ranking Pakistani official to talk about his decision to attend a campaign rally with the leader of a proscribed terrorist organization. He admitted that getting the terrorist leader to turn out voters for a politician was his motivation. He also suggested that encouraging such men get into politics was better than seeing them remain involved in terrorism.

I thought of that conversation last week when Pakistan’s election commission refused to recognize the Muslim Milli League, a new political party started by the social welfare arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group notorious for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. The election commission also warned independent candidates for office not to use the party’s name in campaigns.

If the commission had recognized the Muslim Milli League, that would have in effect allowed a terrorist organization to contest elections. It could have opened the door for other militant groups in Pakistan — and several militant groups were already gearing up to establish their own political parties.

Pakistan has a long history of political parties using violence to prevail in elections. Some parties have armed wings. Others rely on associated militias and criminal networks. Religious parties with ties to terrorist groups have contested elections for decades. Members of outlawed terrorist organizations have also won elected office as independent candidates. While no such organization had ever started its own party, Lashkar-e-Taiba and its social welfare wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, appeared well positioned to lead the charge.


Written by admin on Friday, September 15th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Path to normality
Friday, September 15, 2017

THE road to normality is paved with sighs and grimaces. A Lahore in hectic mode today is a testament to this truth. There is an election to be taken care of. At the same time, a cricket series has to be dealt with. It has to be organised smoothly, no hiccups and no bumps, for the sake of our return to ‘normal’ times.

Cricket is an additional burden, even a distraction for those not enthralled by all English inventions. There was already quite a lot of activity here on account of politics, not to forget all the development work that Lahore must undertake around times of rain each year. This could have added a few decibels to the protest against attempts at revival and restoration.

But above all, it is ‘worth keeping in mind’ that the trends which are now being tackled with the motto of revival have left people in a sour state. They are in a situation where anger gets the better of them at the slightest pretext, even if the cause is not easy to explain.

The city is in the middle of an election which simultaneously brings the aspects of rehabilitation, revival, survival and change to the fore. It is a huge test for PML-N which is trying vociferously to retain the city.

The revival part casts PPP in a very important role. The party has set its own targets for its candidate in the race to achieve just as PTI goes about playing the real opposition to PML-N, also as an agent of change.

This is not all. There are yet others in the contest fighting for their own redemption.

It was not for nothing that Hafiz Saeed allowed his picture to be shown in public after refusing to be seen around for decades.

The list of aspiring candidates in NA-120 will be far from complete if we don’t acknowledge the presence of yet another, by no means small, player in the arena. The Milli Muslim League is no bystander here. The party is making all efforts to be recognised as a political group out and about in the mainstream.


Written by admin on Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Is Trump’s tough talking on Pakistan set to backfire?
SOURCE: Daily Times
Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Afghan quagmire looks set to place Iran at the centre of the multilateral stage at the General Assembly later this month. Which is not at all how Donald Trump had planned it.

First of all the IAEA rained on his parade by confirming that Tehran was playing by the nuclear rulebook. Then came Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, whirling his way through parts of the region like a veritable dervish – with two notable exceptions, naturally – to garner support for a political solution to extricate just about everyone from the Afghan quagmire. And there was Iran, scoffing at the idea of a few thousand troops to seal the deal across the border.

The latter is something that Trump could probably brush aside. Seeing as he views both Islamabad and Tehran as state sponsors of terrorism. We know this because he has said so. What he may have not quite expected is Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani – busy with his own visit to India for the first bilateral meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council post Trump’s much touted South Asian policy review – calling for regional engagement with all stakeholders, including Iran.

In an interview with The Hindu this week, Salahuddin Rabbani said: “[W]e hope also that India, as a good friend of other countries in the region like Russia and Iran, can convince those countries to work with the Afghan government to support the peace process.” Interestingly he forgot to mention China. The Pakistani state apparatus might like to take this as outward recognition of the rock hard friendship with Beijing that may or may not now be overwhelmingly transactional in nature. But, in reality, it likely had more to do with not wanting to inadvertently remind either side of recent tensions over Doklam. Of course, Pakistan enjoys far more clout than India over Iran when it comes to any conversation on terrorism. After all, both were royally humiliated at the hands of the unquiet American at the US-Arab Islamic summit on terrorism. While New Delhi was royally gushed over.


Written by admin on Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Whispers in campus corridors
SOURCE: The News International
Thursday, September 14, 2017

We often think of college and university campuses as places where thoughts flourish and ideas of all kinds mix to create something closer to real-life situations than the more controlled environments most children have experienced within their schools. Over the years, this mingling and the fact that most young people enjoy experimenting with ideas and perhaps rebelling against what they have been conditioned to learn has encouraged unconventional and often liberal ideas to grow on campuses.

We seem to be experiencing a rare condition where this similar experimentation has led to the growth of extremist thought within the classrooms and corridors of our most prestigious institutes of higher learning. In at least five different cases that have been reported within the past two years, those who have either graduated from top universities or are still students at these institutes have been involved with terrorist organisations and, in some cases, have been actively involved in committing crimes. We have a set of examples to prove this.

The 2015 bus attack on Ismailis in Karachi, which killed at least 43 people, was carried out by highly educated individuals who had obviously put the sophisticated plan together on their computers and other devices.

We have also heard of the girl who apparently fled her medical college in Hyderabad to link up with an extremist outfit in Lahore and possibly volunteer as a suicide bomber.

More recently, the attack on a major Karachi-based politician has been attributed to a graduate of the city’s largest university. Mashal Khan was killed by educated peers at a university whose charter states that it aims to promote liberal thinking. (more…)


Written by admin on Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Abbasi offers joint patrols with Afghanistan
SOURCE: The Nation
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

*Proposes ‘bilateral verification’ of militants’ sanctuaries
*Says Pakistan hasn’t received any demand list from Trump

ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday offered “joint patrols” and “joint posts” with Afghanistan as a means of bilateral verification of action taken against terrorist groups or their sanctuaries.

“Whatever it takes to fight terrorism … Pakistan is totally open to that,” Abbasi said while briefing foreign journalists in Islamabad.

He added that Pakistan was willing to kickstart a raft of measures to increase security along the border with Afghanistan and improve its rocky relationship with its neighbour. “We will put up a fence there, the Afghans are welcome to put up another fence on their side.”

His remarks came weeks after President Donald Trump called on Pakistan to do more to eliminate militant sanctuaries, a longstanding US demand.

“We are open for joint patrolling, we are open for joint posts” along the border with Afghanistan, Abbasi said. He denied Pakistan was harbouring militants, insisting it was “fighting agents of chaos.”

The details of the bilateral verification methods could be worked out at the operational level, he said. But Abbasi insisted Afghanistan in turn needed to do more to fight terrorism against Pakistan.

“If you want statistics, there is much more happening across the border from Afghanistan than anything that happens from Pakistan into Afghanistan.”

“All the criminal elements we are fighting are based in Afghanistan,” Abbasi said.


Written by admin on Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Kabul, Delhi Launch New Development Partnership
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

NEW DELHI – More than 115 high-impact projects will be executed in Afghanistan’s suburban and rural communities in 31 provinces under a new partnership with India.

Sibghatullah Ahmadi, deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), confirmed to Pajhwok Afghan News in New Delhi that the 116 agreements would be jointly implemented in 31 provinces.

However, he did not give information about the cost of the projects.

Ahmadi said Rabbani also met India National Security Council Advisor Ajit Doyal. Bilateral relations and security issues were discussed at the meeting.

Delhi and Kabul also signed Motor Vehicles Agreement for the regulation of passenger, personal and cargo vehicular traffic that would pave the way for much needed overland transit.

The decision came at the second meeting of the Indo-Afghan strategic partnership council, attended by Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj.

The two sides inked three more documents of cooperation in the areas of medicine, satellite and New Development Partnership, the Indian minister was quoted as saying.

New Delhi promised helping Kabul in setting up a dam, a drinking water supply project in Kabul, a low-cost housing scheme for returning refugees, a water supply network in Charikar and a polyclinic in Mazar-i-Sharif.


Written by admin on Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Raja Mandala: Inflection point in Kabul
SOURCE: The Indian Express
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

*The strategic rewards in Afghanistan might be as large as the risks

India’s current plans to intensify strategic cooperation with Afghanistan could well mark an inflection point in its regional security politics. If its approach to Afghanistan has long been marked by excessive caution, Delhi now seems ready to make bold.

India’s new activism in Afghanistan could turn out to be of a piece with its much acclaimed management of the recent Doklam crisis on the China frontier. Yet, there is no denying India’s manoeuvre in Doklam was essentially defensive. It was about raising the military and political costs for China and deterring Beijing from escalating the confrontation and persuading it to accept a negotiated settlement.

In Afghanistan, Delhi is entering a very different domain. It is now preparing for involvement in a conflict that is once removed from its own borders. The lack of geographic access has always reinforced independent India’s tentativeness in Afghanistan. The NDA government, led by Narendra Modi, seems open to testing the limits of that geographic constraint.

Delhi’s renewed activism comes at a moment when Kabul and its international partners are fighting with their backs to the wall. The Taliban, with its sanctuaries in Pakistan, has gained considerable ground in Afghanistan over the last few years. On the positive side of the ledger, President Donald Trump has certainly reaffirmed US military and political commitment to Afghanistan last month. But many fear that it might be too late to reverse the negative dynamic in Afghanistan.

The Trump administration is hoping that by mounting pressure on Pakistan to give up its support to the Taliban, it could alter the outcomes in Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, Pakistan has reacted angrily, and has turned to China to counter the new US policy towards Afghanistan.


Written by admin on Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Chinese perceptions of CPEC
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

MOST discussions and analyses with regard to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC) have a Pakistan-driven perspective, and rightly so. After all, we have to safeguard our national interests and ensure maximum benefits for the country. These discussions and writings have evoked a lot of interest in China. This article attempts to present a limited cross section of the views articulated by Chinese scholars, academics, companies engaged in CPEC, retired officials and other friends of Pakistan.

My past association with China as the region’s chief economist for the World Bank as well as visits to China practically every year since then has allowed me to gather these points of view. This year I also had the privilege of attending two international conferences on CPEC, one in Beijing in March and the second in Shanghai in August and listening to the candid views of the Chinese participants from various sections of the society. The goodwill that Pakistan enjoys among the Chinese is perhaps unparalleled and therefore we have to pay heed to their concerns and suggestions. The gist presented here is a composite sketch of diverse views.

The Chinese have voiced concerns regarding negative CPEC talk, security and red tape.

Under its One Belt One Road Initiative announced in 2013, China is planning to invest more than $1 trillion in 60 countries all over the world to establish six different corridors. The receptivity in other countries to this proposal has been anything but enthusiastic; however, some Chinese friends are puzzled by the sceptical and negative reactions from certain quarters in Pakistan expressed in the media, particularly on social media. This comes to them as a surprise because of the long uninterrupted record of strong bilateral relations between the two countries that were not even affected by changes in political leadership in either country. CPEC is the first project of its kind to foster economic cooperation on a massive scale for building large
infrastructural projects in Pakistan.

Although realising that there are some external forces hostile to this initiative, Chinese analysts and participants are concerned about what they see as the misrepresentation of facts by many Pakistanis. It is not obvious to them as to what purpose is served by raising doubts and fears about CPEC in the minds of the Pakistani population. The aspersions being cast on the motives of the Chinese, such as the analogy with the East India Company or Pakistan becoming a satellite of China, are very unnerving: external detractors of CPEC pick up these reports and after bundling them as ‘risks’ of CPEC to Pakistan, disseminate them widely.


Written by admin on Monday, September 11th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghanistan Still A Victim 16 Years After 9/11
Monday, September 11, 2017

CEO Abdullah Abdullah on Monday said Afghanistan, as a front-line state in combating terrorism, has suffered more than any other nation in the world from the scourge.

The CEO made the remarks during a special gathering in Kabul on Monday marking the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States – attacks carried out by the al-Qaeda terror network.

Abdullah said the 9/11 incident was a major event in the history of the world and that the people of Afghanistan continue to suffer from the menace of terrorism and extremism.

Meanwhile a number of Afghan citizens have said they still face enormous challenges despite 16 years of military involvement by the United States in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States.

Two of the planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. (more…)