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Prospects of Taliban-US peace talks by Brig Gen(R) Asif Haroon Raja

Prospects of Taliban-US peace talks

 

Asif Haroon Raja

 

17 years have gone by but so far there are little prospects for the longest war in Afghanistan to come to an end. Lilliputians have paralyzed the Gulliver and brought a standoff in the war. Neither side is in a position to defeat the other. Since time is on the side of the Taliban, a change is discernible in the jingoistic mindset of the US administration under Donald Trump over the last six months. Both the military and civil American leaders are talking of peace which is something new and unique since so far their outlook toward Afghanistan has been to derive an outcome of their choice by using excessive force. All these years, the successive regimes of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Trump sought to defeat the Taliban on the battlefield, forcing them to surrender their arms, bring them to the negotiating table and then compel them to sign the US dictated peace treaty and arrive at a political settlement.

  

Governed by geo-economics interests, George Bush had initiated the war on terror after 9/11. After occupying Afghanistan in November 2001, ignoring demographic factor he installed Northern Alliance heavy regime and sidelined the majority Pashtuns. In May 2003, Iraq was occupied under trumped-up charges and a Shia regime installed. Torture dens like Bagram prison, Abu Gharaib and Guantanamo Bay functioned unchallenged. Bush used force throughout his 8-year rule and it was during his rule that the apparently defeated Taliban after regrouping had started striking the occupying forces and Afghan forces (ANSF) fiercely. Likewise, Iraqi resistance forces in league with Al-Qaeda gave a tough time to the invaders.  

 

Besides the two-front war, the US in collaboration with India and the puppet regime in Kabul had opened a third front against Pakistan which it had declared as an ally, a frontline state and non-NATO ally to fight terrorism. The US and its strategic allies had opted for a secret covert war against Pakistan to extract its nuclear teeth and make it a compliant state. When the militancy in Afghanistan was pushed into Pakistan in 2003/04, the latter had to deploy 100,000 security forces in FATA to combat foreign paid terrorists in FATA. Baluchistan was also heated up in the same timeframe. The troop numbers have now increased to about 200,000 in the northwest.

 

CIA spread its outreach to Eastern Europe and colour revolutions started in the Baltic States during Bush time. China-US and Russia-US rivalry picked up momentum. Blackwater was used in Iraq.

 

From 2004 onwards Indo-US-Afghan nexus embarked upon a coordinated and sustained vicious propaganda campaign against Pakistan to supplement covert operations through proxies. Major accusations were: Nuclear proliferation, unsafe nuclear program, Pak Army and ISI in cahoots with militant groups are rogue outfits, Al-Qaeda headquartered in South Waziristan. Later on, it was accused of not doing enough. Do more mantra was aimed at weakening Pakistan from within.      

 

Once Obama took over in January 2009, he closed the Iraq front and carried out two troop surges in 2009 under his Af-Pak policy in order to let ISAF under Gen McChrystal and ANSF to quell the Al-Qaeda and Taliban threat. ISAF strength rose to 1, 50,000. The proxy war in FATA and settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was stepped up forcing Pakistan to launch military operations in Malakand Division, Swat, Bajaur, South Waziristan and other agencies of FATA in 2009-10. Black Water was inducted in Pakistan in 2008/09 to fan terrorism in urban centres. Quetta Shura was added in the list of accusation in 2011. Pakistan was blamed for terrorism in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

 

Obama brought in drones to target militants in Afghanistan and Waziristan. He also opened fronts in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Somalia, Niger, and Sudan through Arab Spring. ISIS phenomenon took birth in Iraq, Syria and other Middle East (ME) countries in his tenure. Regime change in Ukraine was masterminded by CIA, which impelled Russia to capture Crimea and to support resistance forces in Eastern Ukraine. Russian air force stepped into Syrian war in September 2015 during Obama time. The only de-escalating step taken by Obama regime was the nuclear deal with Iran in July 2015 which averted a warlike situation in the ME. 

 

When troop casualties of occupying forces in Afghanistan doubled in 2009 and 2010, Obama was forced to announce a drawdown plan starting July 2011 and ending it by December 2014. During this period, not only the Taliban remained aggressive and maintained a dominating edge in southern and eastern Afghanistan, the ISAF faced increased suicide and post-stress disorder cases as well as green over blue attacks. Occupying troops indulged in atrocities through night raids and air war.

 

As a result, Obama initiated a political prong in 2011 and resorted to the strategy of fight and talk and to divide the Taliban. Efforts were made to separate Haqqanis under Jalaluddin and his sons from Taliban under Mullah Omar and pitch former against the latter but failed. No worthwhile results accrued from backdoor parleys because of the insincerity of the US and its allies and the insistence of USA that talks should be between the Taliban and the Kabul government only. This was unacceptable to the Taliban who viewed the Karzai and later the Ghani regimes as collaborators and illegitimate.

 

In 2011, Raymond Davis incident, followed by US Navy Seals raid in Abbottabad and Apache helicopters attacks on military posts in Salala dipped Pak-US relations to the lowest ebb, forcing Pakistan to cut off military relations and close the NATO supply lines for 8 months. Washington had to apologize to normalize the relations.  

 

In June 2013, a political office of Taliban was set-up at Doha. When the drawdown was nearing completion, the Pentagon, CIA, Israel, India and Kabul regime prevailed upon Obama and forced him to sign another bilateral agreement with the unity regime in Kabul managed by John Kerry to leave behind a Resolute Support Group (RSG) of 5-6000 to provide training, technical assistance, counter-terrorism and air support to ANSF.

 

 

The security situation in Afghanistan began to deteriorate after the departure of the bulk of ISAF troops and the Taliban gained total control over 47% of the country’s districts from where they could strike targets in all parts of the country.

 

In June 2014, Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched by Pak Army in North Waziristan which dismantled all the bases of foreign-sponsored TTP and other militant groups totalling over 60, flushing them out of FATA. Although the major demand of USA was fulfilled, it was, in reality, a setback for the schemers as far as their ulterior designs against Pakistan were concerned.

 

In 2015, quadrilateral peace talks were initiated by the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan and Pakistan were asked to use its influence and make the Taliban agree to talk. When Islamabad arranged the talks in July that year and scheduled another meeting in the same month which would have surely made a breakthrough, the spoilers in Afghanistan scuttled the peace process by announcing the death of Mullah Omar. They didn’t want to negotiate from a weaker wicket.

 

Pakistan made another attempt when the Taliban were under the leadership of Mullah Akhtar Mansour. But the latter was killed by a US drone in Baluchistan in May 2016, thereby demolishing the peace process.

 

The US wants the Taliban to compromise and accept the US-drafted democracy and constitution, share power as a junior partner, disallow use of Afghan territory by foreign terrorists and to maintain friendly relations with the USA. 

 

The Taliban under Haibatullah Akhundzada have continued with their offensive drive to free their homeland from foreign occupation, regain the seat of power they were deprived of, and restore Islamic system of governance.

 

Like Bush, Obama kept its tilt toward India and visited India twice skipping Pakistan. All big deals with India like civil nuclear agreement, strategic partnership, missile deal, logistics, strategic communications and maritime security agreements were signed with India during Obama’s tenure. The two US leaders have been instrumental in enhancing the presence and influence of India in Afghanistan.  

 

When Trump took over power in January 2017, the US was no more a great country. It had lost its prestige owing to failures in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, unipolarism had given way to multi-polarism, and the USA had become the most hated nation in the Muslim world because of its anti-Muslim agenda. Instead of taking steps to call off the war on terror, he sheathed the political prong, increased the troop level of RSG to 18000, and gave a signal for a fresh military push against the Taliban to shore up ANSF.

 

At the same time, while announcing his new Afghan policy in August 2017, he put the whole blame of instability in Afghanistan upon Pakistan, and not only accused it of providing safe havens to the HN and Afghan Taliban but also supporting them. Since then, Pakistan is on notice and there is no letup in his belligerence. Punitive steps have been taken to compel Pakistan to do more. These include disinformation campaign, threats, suspension of reimbursement of CSF, putting Pakistan in the grey list, suspending military training, and directing IMF not to provide loans for repaying loans to China or for CPEC, provoking India and Afghanistan to step up hostile acts against Pakistan.

 

Trump has earned the hostility of Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, North Korea, Mexico and Pakistan, and has made NATO and EU resentful.    

         

Over one year has lapsed but the US military and ANSF have failed to turn the tide in their favour. Taliban have now started fighting battles in provincial capitals Lashkargah, Ghazni, Farah, Zabul, Uruzgan and Kunduz. Kabul and Bagram have been attacked repeatedly. They now control about 65% of the territory. While the Taliban have expressed their desire to hold talks and that too with the US only, they are not desperate for talks. They know that the wind is blowing in their favour.

 

Ashraf Ghani has been offering unconditional talks since last February and reportedly offered them control over four provinces in southern Afghanistan. Without peace holding of parliamentary elections in coming October will be problematic.   

 

The US, on the other hand, is desperate for peace since the ANSF lacking in fighting spirit and rived in discipline problems cannot defeat or even contain the Taliban, and are in disarray. The unity government is tumbling due to inner rift, inefficiency, corruption and unpopularity. The RSG is fast losing heart and is feeling insecure. The general public has now started holding protest marches asking the foreign troops to quit. Home pressure is building on Trump asking him to exit from the quagmire of Afghanistan at the earliest since it has become a drain on country’s economy. The TTP created by Indo-US-Afghan nexus to defeat Pak military is in tatters. In anger, Fazlullah was killed in June 2018. India which has been made a leading player has abstained from helping in reversing the dipping fortunes of the USA in Afghanistan. The US has lost its leverage over Pakistan after closing the taps of military aid and training. Pakistan has refused to get intimidated and is veering towards China and Russia.

 

The prospects for peace talks brightened when a 3-day ceasefire was religiously implemented on the occasion of Eidul Fitr in June. The two warring opponents mingled and embraced each other and took selfies. The effectiveness of the truce during which the Taliban laid down their arms, and then resumed fighting after the truce signalled how much control the Taliban leaders have over their fighters. 

 

It was under such distressful circumstances that the US agreed to hold preliminary direct talks with Taliban at Doha for the first time on July 28 to find a way out for restoring peace. Its willingness indicates the urgency to end the conflict. This comedown is seen as a diplomatic victory for the Taliban. The latter is no more solely dependent upon Pakistan since Russia, China, Iran, Qatar are supporting them. Moscow had invited the Taliban, US and Kabul for peace talks, but the latter two declined. Increased interest of Russia in Afghan affairs is another factor which is impelling the USA to patch up with Taliban.   

 

The second direct talks are likely to be held this month, in which the issue of release of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay will be discussed to create an amiable atmosphere. The Taliban are showing flexibility in their stance by not insisting on occupying forces to withdraw first and then hold talks. They now want a firm timetable of withdrawal and do not agree to retention of even a single military base as desired by the USA. They would certainly seek a larger role in the future government.

 

One of the major reason for Russia and Iran to support the Taliban is the presence of Daesh (Khurasan) under Wilayat Khurasan (WK) who were brought and settled in Nangarhar and married with Jamaat-al-Ahrar by CIA-RAW in 2014 to fight the Taliban as well destabilize Pakistan. Russia and Iran are also opposed to the US-led reconciliation. Central Asian Republics (CARs) are also wary of Daesh who have an international agenda.

 

Having seen the fate of Syria at the hands of Daesh, the Taliban are also desirous of peace and are seeking the cooperation of other regional countries. They are suffering since 1978 and have learnt lessons and would not like to commit old mistakes and get isolated in the world comity. They also do not want the recurrence of 1991-94 like civil war, or Syria like conditions and like to have a peaceful transition of power. They have given an assurance that unlike al-Qaeda and Daesh, they have no international agenda. They opened communications with Russia, China and Iran which enabled them more avenues of arms supplies to continue with their freedom struggle with greater vigor. But the fact is that no one wants the US to pull out abruptly and ignites another civil war.

 

Notwithstanding the desire for peace by Haibatullah, it must not be overlooked that he has opponents within the Taliban movement who are opposed to him and to peace talks. Rahbari Shura and HN have little appetite for peace talks. Quetta Shura leaders particularly WK linked with HN oppose Haibatullah. It is owing to internal strife that Haibatullah wants to consolidate his position and negotiate from a position of strength after achieving major victories in the battlefield. He aims at capturing a provincial capital. It was with this end in view that big efforts were made to capture Kunduz and Lashkargah and lately Ghazni. While the Taliban have the capability to capture a city but do not have the capacity to retain it as had been seen in Kunduz.

 

The US was at ease as long as Kabul, provincial capitals, strategic communication lines and its eight military bases were safe. Attacks on Kabul and other capitals have unnerved the military forces. What is most worrisome for the US is that it is losing on all counts and finds itself in a nutcracker situation. It can neither afford to exit as a defeated superpower nor can it stay for long. It has lost the war but is not acknowledging it and badly wants a face-saving formula. It can exit only through Pakistan and not via the northern network which is no more available to ship out heavy baggage. The US is faring poorly on all other fronts including the domestic front where Trump has become highly unpopular. Both Pakistan and Taliban are defiant and holding their ground.

 

Judging from the mood of new Pakistan in which the civil-military leadership have come on one page, it cannot rule out the fast emerging possibility of Pakistan slipping out of its hands and shifting to Russo-Sino camp, which could be joined by Iran and Turkey, both antagonist to the USA. The US has realized that the ANSF has become a liability, and Ghani-Abdullah unity government is not delivering.

 

The only tangible factor which has handicapped the Taliban from capturing and retaining the captured cities is the air factor. The US fears the possibility of Russia giving surface-to-air missiles to the Taliban to counter air threat. Ever growing Russo-US rift over Syria and Ukraine is turning the possibility into a reality. That will be doomsday for the occupiers and collaborators.

 

Last but not the least, CPEC has come up as a hissing cobra for both USA and India, which would not only smash their global ambitions and isolate them, but also strengthen their foes China and Pakistan.     

 

While Indo-US-Afghan nexus had yet to absorb the shocks of near demise of TTP, and Pakistan’s decision to repatriate Afghan refugees, the trio got another shock when Pakistan undertook the construction of 830 km fence, and over 400 border forts, along some of the world’s harshest terrain – the Pak-Afghan border last year. Work is expected to be completed by 2019. Why would Pakistan exert such monumental effort, allocating thousands of troops and required logistics for this undertaking? Perhaps Pakistan grows weary of waiting for other ‘vested’ interests to fulfil their promises. It is strange that the US, the Afghan regime and India are objecting instead of assisting to prevent the alleged cross-border infiltration from both sides. Obviously, it would block the covert war.

Finding itself cornered with very little room to manoeuvre, it appears that Washington has now decided to make one last attempt to secure its mercantile interests in the region at a low cost. To this end, it has once again appointed former American ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in the USA as a special envoy of Af-Pak region. He served as an ambassador in Kabul for 5 years during Karzai rule and he had great influence over Karzai and his administration. Being a Pashtun, he has had access to key areas and had developed a relationship with Mujahideen leaders including Hikmatyar during the occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet troops. He has an ill reputation of inflicting extreme torture and excesses upon the Afghan Pashtuns.

 

It seems another plan has been hatched as a last resort to re-enact the reign of terror in Afghanistan. After inducting Daesh, the US is actively considering to induct Black Water in Afghanistan and hand over security duties to it and kill key leaders of the Taliban. Eric Prince has already undertaken two visits to Kabul. Blackwater was initially inducted in Afghanistan during his last tenure and he had a big hand in the persecution and slaughter of militant Pashtuns.

 

Khalilzad and Blackwater coming together once again may not be a coincidence and possibly a repeat action could be in the offing. Khalilzad wants to regain contacts with old Mujahideen leaders and also help Hikmatyar in winning the election and in paving the way for the exit of US troops and formation of a new regime. He is likely to play a role in the next presidential election and possibly in bringing Karzai and his team back in the saddle.

 

From the above, it is evident that the US is not interested in peace since it wants to extract mineral resources of Afghanistan and Central Asia and to accomplish its agenda of denuclearizing Pakistan. India is also anti-peace since it wants to retain its presence to encircle Pakistan and to gain access to CARs through Pakistan’s land corridor. The Kabul government is also not keen since it knows it will crumble and ANSF will splinter soon after the exit of occupying forces.

 

Peace talks are a ruse to throw wool into the eyes of the world. Had the US been sincere in arriving at a viable political settlement, it should have accepted the basic demands of Taliban such as freeing of prisoners, putting them off the blacklist, allowing them freedom of movement, unfreezing their accounts, curtailing human rights abuses and making them a stakeholder. Peace talks could be a deception to widen the existing rift within the Taliban and exploit it by pitching WK against Haibatullah.

 

Similarly, the US should not have distrusted and maltreated Pakistan because, without its wholehearted cooperation, peace is not possible. It should have acknowledged its huge sacrifices in a war it didn’t ask for, nor did it initiate. It should have lauded the efforts of Pakistan, the only country in the region to turn the tide against militancy – despite heaviest odds. It should not have prioritized Indian interests in Afghanistan over ours and pressured Pakistan to grant land access to India for trade with Afghanistan/CARs.   

 

The US must not forget that in the war against the Soviets in the 1980s, America spent billions of dollars destroying the region but practically did nothing to rebuild much of the destroyed basic infrastructure, forcing millions of Afghan refugees to flee to Pakistan where, according to UNHCR reports, approximately 1.38 million registered and one million unregistered remain sheltered to this day. The US callously overlooks the human and financial sacrifices Pakistan has made, including 70,000 war-related civilians and security forces injured or killed; and a financial loss of $ 120 million. 

Stable, peaceful and friendly Afghanistan is vital for Pakistan since it frees Pakistan of twin threat to its security and plays a part in dictating our relations with the US and India. It is with this end in view that earnest efforts have been made to appease the US-installed regime in Kabul which have so far borne no fruit mainly due to the role of spoilers. FM Qureshi visited Kabul on Sept 15 with the hope of melting the ice. He seems satisfied saying the visit was ‘advantageous’.     

 

Taking a cue from the frivolous statement of the US Ambassador in Kabul, Pakistan should remain vigilant that in its enthusiasm to melt the ice, it shouldn’t barter away national interests. Any concession to India regarding trade corridor should be linked with the resolution of Kashmir dispute and end to clandestine operations against Pakistan by India. 

What should be understood by Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah is that the war is unwinnable, and the only way to end the war is through a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. Pakistan can play a constructive role in the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and is in the best position to bring all sides together and work for a détente.

Pakistan’s efforts will be fruitful only if its sacrifices and good work are acknowledged and spoilers are kept aside. Except for India and Kabul regime and some hawks in US administration/Senate that have constantly poured scorn on Pakistan out of malice, the world comity including UNSC Monitoring Team, Global Terrorism Index and others have heaped praises.   

Pakistan will have to promote its counter-narrative cogently to convince the world that it played a lead role in the war on terror, was the biggest victim of terrorism, and has achieved the best results.

Pakistan should remain watchful of the designs of Indo-US-Afghan nexus, be prepared to take on the emerging threats of Daesh and Black Water, speed up fencing and return of refugees, deal effectively with internal enemies promoting foreign agenda and find ways and means to deal with the catastrophic effects of hybrid war attacking the homogeneity of the society.  

 

Factionalism within Taliban leadership and vested interests of the spoilers preclude the possibility of a big breakthrough in peace talks in 2018.

 

The writer is a retired Brigadier, a war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, takes part in TV talk shows and seminars. asifharoonraja@gmail.com

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A Hellfire From Heaven Won’t Smash The Taliban

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A Hellfire From Heaven Won’t Smash The Taliban
By Pepe Escobar
 
June 02, 2016 
 
So Taliban supremo Mullah Mansour’s white Toyota Corolla was rattling across the Balochistan desert just after it had crossed the Iranian border when a Hellfire missile fired from a US drone incinerated it into a charred / twisted wreck.
That’s the official narrative. The Pentagon said Mansour was on Obama’s kill list because he had become «an obstacle to peace and reconciliation».
There’s way more to it, of course. Mansour was a savvy businessman who was extensively traveling to Dubai – the Taliban’s historic clearing house where all sorts of dodgy deals are made. He was also in close connection with Jundullah – a.k.a. the hardcore Sunni anti-Tehran militia very much active in Sistan-Balochistan province in Iran.
This time Mansour was in Sistan-Balochistan on a medical visit – allegedly to eschew hospitals in Pakistan heavily monitored by the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence]. Yet arguably Pakistan intel knew about it – so US intel also may have known about it and thus were able to track him.
But then there’s the real ace in the hole: the New Opium War.
The usual suspects in the Beltway insist that the Taliban profit handsomely from overseeing the opium trade out of Afghanistan –and now operate as a multi-billion-dollar drug cartel. That’s nonsense.
Bets can be made that Mansour’s kill will not reduce Afghanistan’s opium production – which has been steadily on the rise for years now. Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, Mansour’s former number two, has been designated as the new leader.
The fact is, poppy production in Afghanistan remains at the highest levels in provinces that are – in thesis – controlled by Kabul. More opium was produced last year – also in thesis the last year of NATO’s Enduring Freedom operation – than in any other year since the UN started tracking it way back in 2002. In 2016 Afghanistan will produce more opium – thus heroin – than the entire global consumption.
An inkling of what’s really going on in the New Opium War is provided by a recent book (in Italian) by Enrico Piovesana. He tells of shady military operations conducted by NATO in which massive quantities of opium have been sequestered by helicopter – never to be seen again.
So we’re back to the same old CIA opium rat line, which translates into control of the Afghan opium market in collusion with local police, military high brass in Kabul and the Karzai family, of former President a.k.a. «mayor of Kabul» Hamid Karzai. Doing business with narco traffickers has also handily provided liquidity – as in dirty money – to Western big banks. None of this has anything to do with the Taliban, which actually brought down opium production to near zero in 2001, before 9/11 and the American bombing/occupation of Afghanistan.
Those shadowy Af-Pak players
The first US drone strike ever in Baluchestan (another Obama «first») remains something of a mystery. A credible working hypothesis is that this was a covert US-Pakistani co-op. The hit allegedly came via the Pentagon, not the CIA. Mansour’s Corolla was something like 40 km inside Baluchestan after it had crossed the border – in an area where US drones would have been quite vulnerable to upgraded (in 2011) Pakistani air defenses.
A plausible – but unconfirmed – scenario would see RQ-170 Sentinels tracking Mansour’s Toyota, with the coordinates then fed to Reaper drones flying out of Kandahar airfield. Assuming the drones began tracking the Toyota at the Iran-Pakistan border, they would have been in action over Baluchestan air space for hours on end, undisturbed.
But then there are the incongruities. Pakistani sources mention that the Toyota – as in any real drone hit – was not totally smashed, but was still on its wheels. And a mysterious passport (Mullah Mansour’s) also showed up on the scene, unscathed.
As for the original HUMINT that led to Mansour’s trail, the notion that Washington had scored it stretches credulity. It would be more like a very well placed/rewarded asset somewhere – be it a military in Kabul or a disgruntled ISI operative.
What was Mansour really up to? He was quite savvy in playing for time. He clearly saw through the US «strategy» – which boiled down to encouraging Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to convince Islamabad to get the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Mansour though knew the Taliban could always advance militarily without negotiations; that’s why he duly announced the 2016 spring offensive – an annual Taliban ritual. At the same time he was very careful not to antagonize Islamabad so Taliban safe havens in Pakistan would not be compromised.
As far as what Islamabad is up to, that’s way hazier. Islamabad’s man in the Taliban succession was actually Sirajuddin Haqqani. After the death of his notorious father, Haqqani leads the homonymous network – which is very cozy with the ISI, arguably closer than the traditional Kandahar/Quetta Shura, a.k.a. the historic Afghan Taliban.
The new Taliban supremo will now have a handy window of opportunity to consolidate power. By early 2017 there will be a new US president, a new Pakistani army chief but the same Afghan so-called National Unity Government still disunited. The Taliban know what they want; be part of the government in Kabul, and get their cut in case the fractious Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline will ever be built. The more things change in Afghanistan, the more they hark back to two decades ago, during the second Clinton administration.
Meanwhile, former CIA asset, former pal of Osama bin Laden and still one of the US’s Public Enemies, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, defined by Washington as a «global terrorist» and the leader of the Hezbi Islami organization, is about to close a deal with Kabul.
Hezbi Islami is the second largest «insurgency» in Afghanistan. Most of the top brass have defected to the Taliban. Hekmatyar lives in exile somewhere in Pakistan; the ISI, of course, knows all about it. So if Ghani in Kabul can’t bag the Taliban, at least he bags a currently much smaller fish, Hekmatyar. Does it help? Not really. It will fall eventually to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – as in Russia-China joint leadership – to solve the Taliban riddle. Certainly not to Operation Enduring Freedom Forever – no matter the size of their kill list
 
 
 

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Peshawar attack.Terrorism at it’s worse. What to do? by Shams Z Abbas

pakistan-taliban-peshawar-pakistani-men-carry-an-injured-school-girl-to-a-hospital-following-an-attack-by-taliban-gunmen-on-a-school-in-peshawar-on-december-16-2014

Peshawar attack.Terrorism at it’s worse. What to do?  

Shams Abbas

Pakistan seems to be in a state of shock and rightly so.Do we deserve this brutality when the larger majority of our people are moderate and peace loving Muslims.Many are in a state of disbelief.they feel,Muslims cannot do this to Muslims.So then who is behind it?

While there are many players in the promotion of domestic homebred terrorists,we must not ignore, the role of geo political strategies and compulsions of the powers which have been the major players in the Af-Pak region.These powers ‘objectives aim at ,consolidating their presence, and to control Afghanistan.Indeed these powers want Pakistan to do their bidding to ensure that the region remains in their control.This may not necessarily coincide with our policy in the region.I had forwarded an article earlier ,from which I am repeating the relevant excerpt.

Excerpt from the article ,’WHO CREATED THE TALIBAN AND WHO FUNDED THEM’

 
image.adapt.960.highQUOTE
Just as in Libya and Syria where the US and its Persian Gulf allies funded terrorist fronts in bids to overthrow each nation’s respective governments, this unholy alliance is working in Pakistan to create a militant front, with which to menace political groups ,in Islamabad and ,reorder the country to reflect and serve their collective interests. And just as in Syria now, where the US feigns to be locked in battle with terrorists of their own creation, the fact that the US is funding their own enemy billions of dollars while allegedly fighting them in Afghanistan creates a perpetual conflict justifying their continued intervention in the region – overtly and covertly.

When a terrorist attack is carried out in Pakistan by the “Taliban,” it must then be looked at through this lens of global geopolitical reality. Attempts by the Western media to reduce this recent attack to mere “extremism,” preying on global audiences emotionally, provides impunity for the state-sponsors of the Taliban – those funding, arming, and directing their operations across the region, and then benefiting from their horrific consequences.

It appears, just as in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, the West and its allies are waging a proxy war in Pakistan as well. Attempts to exploit the tragedy in Peshawar compound this insidious agenda. Those across Pakistan’s political landscape must understand that their is no line these foreign interests are unwilling to cross in achieving their agenda – be it a line crossed at a perceived ally’s expense, or a perceived enemy’s expense. UNQUOTE.

It is therefore important to caution that our Anti terrorism Action Plan should focus on:

I. The US – AFGHANISTAN – INDIA  role and historical perspectives. These are well understood and I need not repeat. Suffice it to say, that the USA and INDIA have an overwhelming role in Afghanistan and with the advent of the MODI-Doval DOCTRINE, we can expect India to feel neglected if Pakistan and Afghanistan resolve their differences.Ideally there should be synergy in the objectives of achieving stability.In that India,Pakistan and Afghanistan have to jointly work with American and Chinese support. A strong diplomatic offensive needs to be vigorously pursued.

2. We need to be prepared for a long drawn out war against terror.While these terror acts have most certainly a foreign dimension,this foreign linkage can only be successful  through the cooperation of local misguided extremist religious elements.We need to focus on them in entirety, using full force of the law enforcing agencies and quick dispensation of justice.

3. This is also an opportunity to acknowledge that our defensive mechanisms to protect ourselves from potential attacks, have not used modern technology and electronic surveillance options.Our security and intelligence are both, not matching, the devious and ever changing methods, being used by the terrorists.The nation needs to be comprehensively educated.

Why cannot the Pak- Afghan border be fenced.Why cannot the movement to and fro of  Afghans and persons from Pakistan be controlled and checked.Which country in the world allows such easy access.
Why are we harboring three million Afghan refugees.So that ,some from them , can play  havoc with our law and order.There is a need to send them back.

4. The government in power must-stop, games of brinkmanship and playing politics.The media and the channels have consistently been discussing politics and politics only.

Anti  terrorism strategies,economy,law and order are not talked about or  discussed at length,
considering that these issues are more important than politics.

5. Has  the time not come for the judiciary to look into it’s past performance ,which in the context of ,decision of priority cases, related to terrorists ,has been extremely dismal.Why do we have a judiciary if we do not feel safe or get timely justice.If the  judiciary cannot reform itself in 67 years ,will it ever?

The issues of importance for the common man ,take precedence over political expediencies. Drastic changes are  urgently needed ,to improve the performance of the judiciary.

6. Committees need to be Action Committees not assembling and dispersing committees. Lot of action plans were made in the past. Many APC’s and committees formed. The recommendations are in place.These need to be implemented and a follow-up mechanism put in place.

Today  Ifthikhar Chaudhry is saying ,that the ban on executions was illegal? Why did it take him so many years to realize this.That too after retirement. Why shouldn’t Zardari and his Jiyalas be made answerable.

The then Army Chief Kiyani ,should have been more forceful with his recommendations and anti terror plans.

Where goes Independent  thinking.Indeed the much touted independence of judiciary is negated by Ifthikhar’s admission that the ban on executions was illegal.The ex CJP is now throwing the blame on Zardari and Nawaz by implication.

7. Much has been talked about a moderate RELIGIOUS narrative .This is vitally important to offset the extremist narrative propagated by men like MULLA AZIZ  and his likes .They sit on pulpits of mosques and breathe extremism and RELIGIOUS fundamentalism down people’s throats and ears.Many believe them and are misled.Their pupils come from all over.

The thousands of Medressahs have according to a report 2.5 million students.That is a large number to be put just into religious education at the cost of depriving them of their right to broad based education.

Don’t we know what is to be done in this respect?Why are we afraid of catching the bull by the horns.For how long?Will this menace become any less if we do nothing about it.

Time for thinking is over.Procrastination is criminal.Measures need to be taken.Action with effect from yesterday is the way forward .This has to be  well strategised, both, at the International level and by attacking the domestic terror bases ruthlessly.

Shams Z Abbas

Pakistan seems to be in a state of shock and rightly so.Do we deserve this brutality when the larger majority of our people are moderate and peace loving Muslims.Many are in a state of disbelief.they feel,Muslims cannot do this to Muslims.So then who is behind it?

While there are many players in the promotion of domestic homebred terrorists,we must not ignore, the role of geo political strategies and compulsions of the powers which have been the major players in the Af-Pak region.These powers ‘objectives aim at ,consolidating their presence, and to control Afghanistan.Indeed these powers want Pakistan to do their bidding to ensure that the region remains in their control.This may not necessarily coincide with our policy in the region.I had forwarded an article earlier ,from which I am repeating the relevant excerpt.

Excerpt from the article ,’WHO CREATED THE TALIBAN AND WHO FUNDED THEM’

 
QUOTE
Just as in Libya and Syria where the US and its Persian Gulf allies funded terrorist fronts in bids to overthrow each nation’s respective governments, this unholy alliance is working in Pakistan to create a militant front, with which to menace political groups ,in Islamabad and ,reorder the country to reflect and serve their collective interests. And just as in Syria now, where the US feigns to be locked in battle with terrorists of their own creation, the fact that the US is funding their own enemy billions of dollars while allegedly fighting them in Afghanistan creates a perpetual conflict justifying their continued intervention in the region – overtly and covertly.

When a terrorist attack is carried out in Pakistan by the “Taliban,” it must then be looked at through this lens of global geopolitical reality. Attempts by the Western media to reduce this recent attack to mere “extremism,” preying on global audiences emotionally, provides impunity for the state-sponsors of the Taliban – those funding, arming, and directing their operations across the region, and then benefiting from their horrific consequences.

It appears, just as in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, the West and its allies are waging a proxy war in Pakistan as well. Attempts to exploit the tragedy in Peshawar compound this insidious agenda. Those across Pakistan’s political landscape must understand that their is no line these foreign interests are unwilling to cross in achieving their agenda – be it a line crossed at a perceived ally’s expense, or a perceived enemy’s expense. UNQUOTE.

It is therefore important to caution that our Anti terrorism Action Plan should focus on:

I. The US – AFGHANISTAN – INDIA  role and historical perspectives. These are well understood and I need not repeat. Suffice it to say, that the USA and INDIA have an overwhelming role in Afghanistan and with the advent of the MODI-Doval DOCTRINE, we can expect India to feel neglected if Pakistan and Afghanistan resolve their differences.Ideally there should be synergy in the objectives of achieving stability.In that India,Pakistan and Afghanistan have to jointly work with American and Chinese support. A strong diplomatic offensive needs to be vigorously pursued.

2. We need to be prepared for a long drawn out war against terror.While these terror acts have most certainly a foreign dimension,this foreign linkage can only be successful  through the cooperation of local misguided extremist religious elements.We need to focus on them in entirety, using full force of the law enforcing agencies and quick dispensation of justice.

3. This is also an opportunity to acknowledge that our defensive mechanisms to protect ourselves from potential attacks, have not used modern technology and electronic surveillance options.Our security and intelligence are both, not matching, the devious and ever changing methods, being used by the terrorists.The nation needs to be comprehensively educated.

Why cannot the Pak- Afghan border be fenced.Why cannot the movement to and fro of  Afghans and persons from Pakistan be controlled and checked.Which country in the world allows such easy access.
Why are we harboring three million Afghan refugees.So that ,some from them , can play  havoc with our law and order.There is a need to send them back.

4. The government in power must-stop, games of brinkmanship and playing politics.The media and the channels have consistently been discussing politics and politics only.

Anti  terrorism strategies,economy,law and order are not talked about or  discussed at length,
considering that these issues are more important than politics.

5. Has  the time not come for the judiciary to look into it’s past performance ,which in the context of ,decision of priority cases, related to terrorists ,has been extremely dismal.Why do we have a judiciary if we do not feel safe or get timely justice.If the  judiciary cannot reform itself in 67 years ,will it ever?

The issues of importance for the common man ,take precedence over political expediencies. Drastic changes are  urgently needed ,to improve the performance of the judiciary.

6. Committees need to be Action Committees not assembling and dispersing committees. Lot of action plans were made in the past. Many APC’s and committees formed. The recommendations are in place.These need to be implemented and a follow-up mechanism put in place.

Today  Ifthikhar Chaudhry is saying ,that the ban on executions was illegal? Why did it take him so many years to realize this.That too after retirement. Why shouldn’t Zardari and his Jiyalas be made answerable.

The then Army Chief Kiyani ,should have been more forceful with his recommendations and anti terror plans.

Where goes Independent  thinking.Indeed the much touted independence of judiciary is negated by Ifthikhar’s admission that the ban on executions was illegal.The ex CJP is now throwing the blame on Zardari and Nawaz by implication.

7. Much has been talked about a moderate RELIGIOUS narrative .This is vitally important to offset the extremist narrative propagated by men like MULLA AZIZ  and his likes .They sit on pulpits of mosques and breathe extremism and RELIGIOUS fundamentalism down people’s throats and ears.Many believe them and are misled.Their pupils come from all over.

The thousands of Medressahs have according to a report 2.5 million students.That is a large number to be put just into religious education at the cost of depriving them of their right to broad based education.

Don’t we know what is to be done in this respect?Why are we afraid of catching the bull by the horns.For how long?Will this menace become any less if we do nothing about it.

Time for thinking is over.Procrastination is criminal.Measures need to be taken.Action with effect from yesterday is the way forward .This has to be  well strategised, both, at the International level and by attacking the domestic terror bases ruthlessly.

Shams Z Abbas

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Pakistani Army boot camps want to ‘re-program’ ISIS terrorists

 An undated photo posted to a militant website in January shows ISIS fighters marching in Raqqa, Syria.Photo: AP

 

 

It’s a 12-step program for terrorists.

Pakistan has successfully deradicalized thousands of Taliban jihadists using special boot camps — and now wants to try the tactic on the monstrous Islamic State, The Post has learned.

Pakistani military officials say they are confident that they can re-program the twisted minds of the head-chopping ISIS terrorists and turn them into normal, hard-working citizens.

“I believe that if we are able to harness ISIS in our rehab centers, I think it is doable,” said one Pakistani military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Since the program began in 2009, Pakistan has reformed a whopping 2,500 Taliban warriors — most of whom were suicide bombers and mid-level troop commanders, officials said.

“We have a 99 percent success rate. [The Taliban] would have killed themselves and a lot of other people, too. We are saving a lot of lives,” another Pakistani army official, Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, told The Post last week in Washington, DC.

Pakistan is now willing to share its expertise on rehab centers with Iraq and Syria in their fight against ISIS, which has taken over large swaths of land in those countries to create their self-proclaimed “caliphate,” Bajwa said.

“If we receive a request from [Iraq or Syria], I think we can talk to them about it,” Bajwa said, adding that all Middle Eastern countries need to take an “integrated approach” on ISIS and other extremist groups because “we’re all fighting the same menace.”

The Pakistani army came up with the rehab idea after it launched a 2009 offensive in Swat Valley and rounded up a number of Taliban militants, the anonymous source said.

The terrorists were segregated and categorized by their level of indoctrination and their ages, which ranged from 18 to 45, the official said.

“We look at their track record — how long have they been with the Taliban, their level of radicalization,” the official said. “On a scale of 1 to 10, this one may be an 8, and this one a 5, and we separate them accordingly into groups.”

The army converted four large school buildings in Swat and put together a team of doctors, teachers, psychologists and other professionals.

The Taliban then underwent a four-part re-programming process there that took six months to a year.

The “deradicalization program” drills down into the root causes of why they join the ranks of the Taliban, the official said.

“Some people get radicalized out of a sense to serve God,” the official said. “Others, especially young men, see Taliban with long beards and carrying Kalashnikovs [machine guns] walking around’’ and think it’s cool.

The official said that in some Taliban-controlled areas, the terrorists force families to turn over their children for indoctrination.

In the rehab centers, the first part of the rebooting process is a psychological evaluation.

INITIALLY, THEY HAVE A VERY DARK MINDSET, AND THEY WON’T — — USE ANY COLOR OTHER THAN BLACK COLOR TO DRAW A HO– — USE WITH NO WINDOWS.

 – Gen. Bajwa

“Initially, they have a very dark mindset, and they won’t use any color other than black color to draw a house with no windows,” Bajwa said. “At the end of the process, they want to use any color other than black to draw their house — bright colors with open windows and doors.”

In the second phase, the militants are “de-indoctrinated and then motivated” by religious teachers and friends, Bajwa said.

“They sit down with [the terrorists] and explain to them, ‘Why would they resort to this type of life?’ What it entails in terms of religious values and social and moral values, so all that was discussed,” Bajwa said.

The third and fourth parts involve making the terrorists productive citizens who are valued by their families, according to Bajwa.

They are given an education and taught a craft, such as carpentry or computer programming.

During the process, the other official said, the terrorists are served regular Pakistani meals in a large cafeteria. On the menu is curry, rice, mangos, vegetables and yogurt for dessert.

They also take part in a comprehensive morning and evening physical therapy program, playing volleyball and cricket, Pakistan’s favorite pastime.

“They operate in teams and are socially more active, which is positive reinforcement,” the official said.

The former extremists are then released back into society.

“They never again join the [Pakistan Taliban],” Bajwa insisted. “But we put in place a system of monitoring them with the help of an integrated team, the family and local police.”

A source said there was only one case in which it appeared the reboot might not be working.

“This monitoring time actually caters for that risk and possibility,’’ the source said.

 

Reference

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Pashtuns Also Support Military Operation By Sajjad Shaukat

                                         Pashtuns Also Support Military Operation

                                                            By Sajjad Shaukat

 

Welcoming ceasefire offer of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the government led by PML-N has not only halted the air strikes on the hideouts of the militants in the tribal areas, but also resumed the suspended peace dialogue with the Taliban. But, taking note of the terror-attack in the District Court of Islamabad which killed 11 people including an additional session judge on March 4, this year coupled with assault on the anti-polio workers in the Khyber Agency, both the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan have repeatedly said that peace talks and violent acts of terrorism cannot go side by side. While unveiling the national security policy in the National Assembly on February 26, Chaudhry Nisar had also stated that the attacks from militants would be met with an appropriate military response. At the same time, in a fresh statement, he pointed out in the National Assembly that the dialogue was still the preferred option and that a new governmental committee with representation from the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Government will take the process forward in a meaningful way.

Contrarily, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has disclosed that a full-scale military operation against Taliban in the tribal areas could be launched as early as this month in case of violation of ceasefire by the militants. While hinting towards military action, he explained, “The Government or Armed Forces whose job is to defend the country, cannot sit idle, if writ of the state is challenged and that is what they did recently by launching surgical strikes against hideouts of terrorists, which proved effective and pushed Taliban to a stage where they were understandably compelled to announce unconditional ceasefire.” A similar message emanated from the Corps Commanders’ meeting on March 7 and this makes things more unpredictable.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz also stated that dialogue with the Taliban had derailed, adding that the state’s writ would be established in the troubled regions of FATA.

In fact, TTP have been acting upon a dual strategy, as sometimes it accept responsibility for its terror-attacks, but sometimes, it deny the same. But contradictory statements of its spokesmen prove that this militant outfit is behind several subversive acts which still continue at various places. In this respect, TTP has refused that it was behind the recent attacks in Islamabad and Khyber Agency, but it accepted responsibility when Taliban insurgents targeted the Rangers, Police and anti-polio workers in Karachi in wake of the peace talks. Similarly, Taliban had claimed responsibility for the brutal massacre of 23 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary who were abducted from Mohmand Agency, four years ago and later shifted to Afghanistan.

It is notable that the TTP had condemned the brutal assault on the church in Peshawar. But, afterwards, its spokesman had remarked that it was in accordance with Sharia (Islamic Jurisprudence) which indicated that the group was behind that ruthless attack. So, ambivalent statements of the TTP-led Taliban have endorsed that it had sabotaged the peace dialogue by playing double game.

However, on March 4, the Leader of the Opposition, Syed Khurshid Shah of the PPP including several parliamentarians doubted the intentions of the TTP, as they discussed Islamabad District Court’s incident. They were of the view that on one hand, the TTP announced ceasefire and on the other hand, it was carrying out terrorist acts. They stated that ceasefire from Taliban was another deception attack—killing innocent people and warned that parliament house might be the next target. They criticized the interior minister for declaring Islamabad a safe city few days back, expressing concern that even the Presidency and Prime Minister House were not safe.

Nevertheless, despite grasping the real attentions of the Taliban, the present government is wavering between fact and scepticism by following the policy of appeasement towards all the Taliban groups, especially the TTP. It is owing to this delay of the rulers in devising a comprehensive strategy to deal with the terrorists with iron hands that some leaders like Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Imran Khan who had earlier condemned the TTP terror-attacks and favoured a military operation have again been insisting upon the rulers to continue present peace talks with the Taliban.

It is of particular attention that although Pakistan’s other provinces have been facing various forms of subversive attacks, yet wave of terrorism has intensified in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the past few years. In this regard, militant attacks on Peshawar Air Port, Pearl Continental Hotel, the courageous leader of the Awami National Party (ANP) Bashir Ahmad Bilour, Malala Yousafzai and members of national assemblies including several suicide attacks and bomb blasts in Peshawar, other cities, funerals, places of worship, government buildings, bazaars, schools, video shops, cinemas, assaults on security forces and law-enforcing agencies in various cities of the province might be cited as example.

Similar acts of sabotage have continued in FATA, and TTP always felt pride in accepting responsibility for these heinous activities. In some tribal areas and Swat, the militant leaders created states within the state, and have been involved in a number of crimes such as drug-smuggling, forced marriages, hostage-takings for ransom and even car-snatching including beheadings and killing the moderate dissidents. In the Khyber agency, they are also indulged in murdering and torturing Shias in their majority areas, forcing them to flee. They have discouraged women’s education, keeping them ignorant and exploitable.

When Taliban had their hold in Dir, Swat, Buner and other adjoining areas, they imposed their self-styled religious agenda. It was due to Taliban’s inhuman activities that when in 2009, Pak Army ejected them from these regions through military operations which were also conducted in South Waziristan, general masses of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA did not protest against the armed forces. Besides drastic implications of the CIA-operated drone attacks, the Pushtoons boldly faced more than four million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) by refusing to accept Taliban style of Shariah and preferred to live in camps.

Notably, the Pushtoons are successful businessmen. But, the Taliban have given a greater blow to their business through brutal attacks. Therefore, they resent the cowardly acts of these insurgents. In some tribal areas, the Pushtoons, raised Lashkars in order to cope with the Taliban militancy which has challenged their survival.

People of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA also know that in connivance with India and Israel, America has been implementing its anti-Pakistan activities by assisting militancy in Pakistan through various subversive activities including sectarian and ethnic violence through TTP. In this connection, American CIA, Indian secret agency RAW and Israeli Mossad have also been sending heavily-armed militants from Afghanistan’s side, which have targeted the security check posts of Pakistan’s forces, Police  and other infrastructure of the tribal areas, located near Afghan border. On the whole, they have killed several persons.  

Like the people of other provinces, Pashtoons are aware of the fact that the Taliban who are less than one percent of the population in the country have become self-proclaimed campaigners of Islam, while, the victims of terror-attacks in Pakistan, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been innocent men women and children. No doubt, Jihad is a sacred obligation, but its real spirit needs to be understood clearly, as murdering innocent people is not Jihad. In fact, by implementing the agenda of some foreign powers, these Taliban and their banned affiliated groups are defaming Islam, concept of Jihad, and are destabilizing Pakistan.

Now, these terrorists have intensified their anti-social, undemocratic and un-Islamic practices in wake of peace dialogue, therefore, people from all the segment of life and majority of politicians in Pakistan including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA want that a handful of terrorist elements must not be allowed to impose their self-perceived ideology on the majority of Pakistanis, while supporting military action against these culprits.

Although the Taliban consists of Pashtuns, but the latter who have rejected irrational notion of these insurgents have glorious traditions of bravery and chivalry. Nefarious attacks on women, children and other places are against the traditions of Pashtuns who are patriot and peace-loving people.

Now, some political and religious entities have been pointing to some external elements which are behind the menace of terrorism in the country. In this context, without naming US, some are hinting towards the “third power”, and some are indicating India.

Nonetheless, at this critical juncture, entire nation and media are united against the Taliban’s double game by favouring military action against them. And armed forces are well-prepared for the same, as successful aerial strikes on the sanctuaries of the Taliban have recently proved. While Pushtuns also support military operation against the Taliban, particularly TTP, who have destroyed the peace of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com

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