IN THE NEWS: US, TALIBAN KEEP OPEN DOOR TO TALKS AFTER SUMMIT SCRAPPED (SEPTEMBER 9, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, September 9th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

US, Taliban keep open door to talks after summit scrapped
SOURCE: The News International
Monday, September 9,2019

*Trump said he had invited Taliban leaders, as well as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, for talks Sunday at the presidential retreat of Camp David on a draft deal that would see the United States withdraw thousands of troops and wind down its longest-ever war

WASHINGTON: The United States and Afghanistan´s Taliban on Sunday both left the door open to fresh talks after President Donald Trump abruptly canceled a secret summit, but the insurgents threatened to inflict greater costs.

The United States also said it would not relent in fighting the militants after Trump cited a Taliban attack that killed a US soldier for scuttling the unprecedented meeting.

Trump said he had invited Taliban leaders, as well as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, for talks Sunday at the presidential retreat of Camp David on a draft deal that would see the United States withdraw thousands of troops and wind down its longest-ever war.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a series of television interviews, did not rule out a return to talks but said the United States needed a “significant commitment” from the Taliban. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S PASSIVE AGGRESSION ON KASHMIR (SEPTEMBER 8, 2019)

Written by admin on Sunday, September 8th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s passive aggression on Kashmir
Source: The News on Sunday
Sunday, September 8, 2019
By ADNAN REHMAT

*Pakistan’s symbolic gesture on Kashmir aims to serve three purposes: to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Kashmiris; vent rage at India; and to internationalise the dispute

Pakistan, on August 30, came to a formal ‘standstill’ in a show of collective solidarity with the people of Kashmir. Thus for 30 minutes, according to the state-sponsored narrative, traffic lights remained red, bringing traffic to a halt while sirens blared and the national anthem was sung; and the flags of both Pakistan and Kashmir waved dutifully. To underscore the solemnity of the occasion, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation live from the pulpit of his official office.

There is as yet no conclusive word from Indian-administered Kashmir – either from the government or from independent voices – on how this unorthodox show of support may have impacted the Kashmiri plight. And given that the Valley is under near absolute communication lockdown, this was to be expected. Elsewhere, however, the response by mainstream India appeared at best amused and, at worse, derisive. The international community, for its part, remained largely underwhelmed. Even here, social media reflected both a sense of mirth mixed with sheer irritation.

Although local television channels and newspapers, as anticipated, filled airwaves and column inches with righteous rage at India; taking cues from the prevailing state narrative. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: DECIDING AFGHANISTAN’S FATE (SEPTEMBER 8, 2019)

Written by admin on Sunday, September 8th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Deciding Afghanistan’s fate
SOURCE: Dawn
Sunday, September 8, 2019

DEADLY bombings against the backdrop of peace talks paint an uneasy picture for the future of Afghanistan, on the brink of witnessing a dramatic withdrawal of US troops even as the spectre of violence looms.

On Thursday, 10 people were killed — including two Nato troops — when a powerful car bomb exploded in a heavily fortified zone in Kabul, just days after Zalmay Khalilzad, US special envoy and America’s chief negotiator in the peace talks, concluded the ninth round of meetings with the Taliban leadership in Qatar and announced the two sides had reached an agreement which only awaited the Trump administration’s approval.

Following the bombing, Khalilzad returned to Qatar for unscheduled talks with the Taliban that reportedly went on well past midnight. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been left out of these high-powered discussions in Qatar on the insistence of the Taliban, and appears to be deeply unhappy with some aspects of the impending peace agreement.

From the press conference that followed the trilateral dialogue held in Islamabad yesterday, with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi hosting his Chinese and Afghan counterparts, it was clear the focus of the talks had been on ensuring that the battle-scarred country does not once again descend into internecine warfare. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN DENIES USE OF AIRSPACE TO INDIAN PRESIDENT (SEPTEMBER 7, 2019)

Written by admin on Saturday, September 7th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PAKISTAN DENIES USE OF AIRSPACE TO INDIAN PRESIDENT
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Saturday, September 7, 2019

*FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS DECISION WAS TAKEN IN VIEW OF INDIA’S RECENT ‘BEHAVIOR’

Pakistan on Saturday said it had denied India’s President Ram Nath Kovind permission to fly through its airspace—access to which is usually granted—due to New Delhi’s recent “behavior.”

The decision comes at a time of high tension between the two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

“The decision has been taken in view of India’s behavior,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a statement. “The Indian President had sought permission to use Pakistan’s airspace to travel to Iceland but we decided not to permit him,” Qureshi added without giving further details.

Pakistan closed its airspace to Indian traffic after aerial dogfights in February ratcheted up tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi. It reopened its skies for all civilian traffic in July, ending months of restrictions affecting major international routes. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHANISTAN: AHMAD MASSOUD SEIZES FATHER’S TORCH (SEPTEMBER 6, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, September 6th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghanistan: Ahmad Massoud seizes father’s torch
SOURCE: Asia Times
Friday, September 6, 2019 (Posted)
By ALISON TAHMIZIAN MEUSE

*Son of famed commander Ahmad Shah Massoud steps into political arena as US says it is on the verge of an accord with the Taliban

In the heart of Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, before thousands of devotees of his late father, Ahmad Massoud on Thursday put himself forward as the figure capable of unifying the Afghan people and challenging an ascendent Taliban.

“At this moment, [the Taliban] are intoxicated. They think they are victorious,” Massoud, 30, told Asia Times ahead of the gathering.
“Someone needs to detox them to bring them to reality that it is no longer their way, and will never be their way.”

The Taliban, who routed Ahmad Shah Massoud’s government forces in Kabul in 1996, before getting routed themselves in the aftermath of 9/11, appear to be scenting their moment once again.

The US this week said it was on the “threshold” of reaching an accord with the Taliban after nearly two decades of war, even as the extremist group stepped up deadly attacks across the country.

The deal is expected to see the US launch a staged withdrawal of its nearly 15,000 troops in the country. In return, the Taliban should pledge to prevent Al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base for future attacks against America.

With the Afghan government sidelined from talks and the Taliban poised for a US pullout, Massoud’s entrance into the political arena communicates that “someone” to detox the Taliban could be him. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: RISKS AND FEARS: POMPEO REFUSES TO SIGN DEAL WITH TALIBAN (SEPTEMBER 6, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, September 6th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Risks and fears: Pompeo refuses to sign deal with Taliban
SOURCE: The News International
Friday, September 6, 2019

WASHINGTON: The US is closing in on a deal with the Taliban that is designed to wind down America’s 18-year war in Afghanistan, but the best indication of how risky the pact may be is this: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is declining to sign it, according to senior US, Afghan and European officials.

The “agreement in principle” that US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has hammered out in nine rounds of talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar would take the first tentative steps toward peace since the US and allied forces deployed to Afghanistan following the attacks on 9/11, according to senior Afghan and Trump Administration officials familiar with its general terms.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper was scheduled to discuss the closely held details of the deal with President Donald Trump in a Sept 3 meeting, according to senior administration officials. If Trump approves and a deal is struck, it could begin a withdrawal of some 5,400 US troops, roughly a third of the present force, from five bases within 135 days, international media reported.

But the deal doesn’t ensure several crucial things, those familiar with the discussions tell TIME. It doesn’t guarantee the continued presence of US counterterrorism forces to battle al Qaeda, the survival of the pro-US government in Kabul, or even an end to the fighting in Afghanistan. “No one speaks with certainty. None,” said an Afghan official taking part in briefings on the deal with Khalilzad. “It is all based on hope. There is no trust. There is no history of trust. There is no evidence of honesty and sincerity from the Taliban,” and intercepted communications “show that they think they have fooled the U.S. while the U.S. believes that should the Taliban cheat, they will pay a hefty price.” (more…)

IN THE NEWS: INDIA’S ABROGATION OF ARTICLE 370 IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR PAK TO REDEFINE ITS NATIONALISM (SEPTEMBER 5, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

India’s abrogation of Article 370 is an opportunity for Pak to redefine its nationalism
SOURCE: The Indian Express
Thursday, September 5, 2019
By TILAK DEVASHER*

*There is no doubt that for the Pakistani leadership, and especially the army, to reduce the salience of, let alone jettison, the Kashmir cause would be extremely difficult, unpopular and politically dangerous

Counter-intuitive and strange it may seem, but the events of August 5, 2019, when the Narendra Modi government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir provided by Article 370, could be a game-changer for Pakistan. Whatever Pakistan may continue to claim, the fact is that the Indian Jammu and Kashmir is no longer a bilateral issue. As Pakistan gets used to the new reality, it could have a huge opportunity.

Kashmir has been the bedrock of Pak nationalism for decades with slogans such as “Kashmir banega Pakistan”, “unfinished agenda of Partition”, “Pakistan’s jugular”, “core issue with India”, reminding Pakistanis of its centrality. Kashmir acquired greater salience after the creation of Bangladesh shredded the two-nation theory.

Pakistan needed another crutch and that crutch became the “nazaria-i-Pakistan” (Ideology of Pakistan) of which Kashmir was an integral part.

As L Ziring puts it: “All of Pakistan was made hostage to the Kashmir conundrum.” The Kashmir card became, and continues to be, an industry in Pakistan and many have thrived on it, developing a vested interest in its continuation. It enabled the Pakistan army to dominate the polity, it allowed the politicians to burnish their nationalistic credentials, the religious lobby could fan anti-Hindu sentiments, and the hapless Pakistani got a break on the various “Kashmir Solidarity Days”.

Perhaps the best explanation for Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir was provided by Z A Bhutto in his The Myth of Independence (1969) when he wrote: “If a Muslim majority area can remain a part of India, the ‘raison d’etre of Pakistan collapses. For the same reasons, Pakistan must continue unremittingly her struggle for the rights of self-determination.” Though hanged by the army, Bhutto’s enunciation became the foundation of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. Not surprisingly, Pakistan has spent the last seven decades in revanchist schemes like the “raiders” in 1947, “infiltrators” in 1965, and “freedom fighters” since 1989 and especially in Kargil, in 1999. All of these have borne no fruit except to inject a jihadi culture and radicalise society. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: INDIA SOWING SEEDS OF WAR IN REGION: ISPR (SEPTEMBER 5, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

India sowing seeds of war in region: ISPR
SOURCE: Daily Times
Thursday, September 5, 2019

* Maj Gen Ghafoor says war becomes a compulsion instead of a choice when sovereignty of any nation is threatened
* Pakistan will support Kashmiris “till our last soldier, last bullet and last breath”
* Economy has started improving and will continue in days to come

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor Wednesday said India’s actions in Held Kashmir are endangering regional peace.

“The situation in Kashmir has become a big danger in the region … the Indian actions in Kashmir are sowing seeds of war,” the military spokesman said in a televised press conference. “We do not want to take the conflict to that point where the regional and world peace is endangered,” he added.

Reiterating unflinching support to the people of Indian-held Kashmir, Major General Ghafoor said wars are fought by nations to retain dignity and honour. “Army protects a nation’s sovereignty. When that is threatened, war fighting becomes a compulsion instead of a choice. It is up to India and the rest of the world,” he maintained. “Pakistan can go to any limit to support the Kashmiris for their just right to self-determination,” he added.

When his attention was drawn towards a recent press statement of the Indian defence minister on India’s ‘no first use’ doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons, Major General Asif Ghafoor said it is India’s unilateral initiative. Pakistan has never been into such commitment or made any statement on it, rather Pakistan has kept its options open, he added. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: POMPEO ‘DECLINES’ TO SIGN AFGHAN DEAL: TIME MAGAZINE (SEPTEMBER 5, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pompeo ‘Declines’ To Sign Afghan Deal: TIME Magazine
SOURCE: TOLO News
Thursday, September 5, 2019

*Pompeo said the US has “delivered” on its original mission in Afghanistan—to prevent al-Qaeda militants from using the country as a safe harbour
* Khalilzad Briefs US Lawmakers On Afghan Peace Talks
* Ex Envoys Warn Of A Civil War If US Leaves Afghanistan

While the US and Taliban are close to a peace deal to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has declined to sign the Afghan peace deal, TIME Magazine reported.

On Monday, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, who is in Kabul after wrapping up Doha talks told TOLOnews that the US and the Taliban have reached an agreement in principle and it is closed, but added that the document is not final until US President Trump approves it.

The two sides have held nine rounds of talks in the past ten months.
Mr. Khalilzad said that based on the draft agreement, the US will withdraw 5,000 troops from five bases in Afghanistan within 135 days if conditions in the agreement are addressed by the Taliban.

But the deal doesn’t ensure several crucial things, those familiar with the discussions said as quoted by TIME.

It doesn’t guarantee the continued presence of US counterterrorism forces to battle al Qaeda, the survival of the pro-US government in Kabul, or even an end to the fighting in Afghanistan, the report said. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: THE ISLAMIST LEADER WHO COULD TOPPLE THE PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT (SEPTEMBER 4, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The Islamist Leader Who Could Topple The Pakistani Government
SOURCE: Gandhara
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
By ABUBAKAR SIDDIQUE

*Maulana Fazlur Rehaman, leader of Jamiat Ulma-e Islam (JUI), an Islamist political party, is determined to march on Islamabad next month

As most senior Pakistani opposition politicians languish in prison amid a government crackdown, a seasoned Islamist leader has emerged as the most serious threat to the country’s government.

Maulana Fazlur Rehaman, leader of Jamiat Ulma-e Islam (JUI), an Islamist
political party, is determined to march on Islamabad next month after his deadline for Prime Minister Imran Khan to step down expired on August 31.

“We are going to march on Islamabad because people from all walks of life and various political leanings are agonized [ by policies of this government],” he toldthe private Aaj TV recently. “All of them have now united and have realized that nothing good will happen without the end of this government.”

Rehman is threatening to ‘lockdown’ Islamabad by bringing in some 1 million supporters in October when holding large protests will be much easier in the mild fall weather.

The 66-year-old politician and former lawmaker is hoping that the first year of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) political party has given everyone enough reasons to push for ousting it from office long before its five-year constitutional term ends in 2023. (more…)