Wednesday, September 5, 2018

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Video Report - Senior administration official blasts Trump in op-ed

New York Times publishes opinion piece from anonymous senior Trump administration official

By Caitlin Yilek

The New York Times opinion pages took a rare action Wednesday, granting anonymity to a senior Trump administration official to publish an opinion piece about how administration officials are working to undermine the president.
“The dilemma — which [President Trump] does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them,” the writer says.
The administration official questions Trump’s ability to effectively lead the country, explaining that many senior administration officials, including those loyal to the president’s agenda, “believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.”
“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t,” the piece reads.
The piece praises some of Trump’s accomplishments — such as deregulation and tax reform — but mostly criticizes his leadership style and behavior.
The official also argues that the biggest concern is not what Trump has done to the country, but that the country has “allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.”

The piece was published a day after excerpts of Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” painted a bleak picture of the West Wing run under Trump.

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Why Russia and China Are Expanding Their Roles in Afghanistan

  • The shared threat of an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan will drive Pakistan and Russia into a closer partnership as Moscow strengthens its leverage over the Afghan negotiations.
  • Pakistan's national security imperatives mean it will always choose to promote a sympathetic government in Kabul, even if this choice means relations with the United States deteriorate.
  • China's expanding diplomatic and economic profile make it likely that Beijing will establish a limited and localized military presence in Afghanistan.

As the great powers deepen their presence in South Asia, all eyes are on Afghanistan. A year has passed since U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his Afghan war strategy in August 2017, seeking to break the stalemate in America's longest-running conflict. But the Taliban's sustained assault on the city of Ghazni demonstrates that the addition of a few thousand U.S. troops under operations Resolute Support and Freedom's Sentinel has failed to decisively swing the pendulum in Kabul's favor. What's more, Afghanistan's Interior Ministry blamed Pakistan for planning the Ghazni attack, denting prospects of an improvement in relations after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani telephoned Imran Khan to congratulate him on becoming Pakistan's new prime minister.
This relapse was to be expected. The fate of the Afghan conflict is shaped to a significant degree by Pakistan. And its grand strategy of maintaining internal unity by thwarting external aggression dictates that Islamabad's military-dominated foreign policy will always seek a sympathetic government in Kabul — particularly one that recognizes the disputed border and that chooses to keep India at arm's length to assuage any concerns of strategic encirclement. Pakistan's current strategy to achieve this goal is to support the Taliban. This support, however, is deepening the antagonism between Islamabad and Washington under Trump, the latest U.S. president pressuring Pakistan to abandon its support for militant proxies. But forced to choose between satisfying its strategic imperatives or appeasing the United States, Pakistan will always choose the former.

Pivoting to Russia

Still, Islamabad has options, and the logical response to its deteriorating relationship with one great power is to forge stronger relations with another. Enter Russia. While Pakistan's relationship with China has a deep history, born in 1963 out of a mutual enmity to India, its relationship with Russia was openly hostile, devolving into a proxy conflict during the Soviet-Afghan war. After the Red Army's 40th division crossed into Afghanistan in December 1979, the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence coordinated the shipment of arms to the Afghan resistance movement known as the mujahideen. What followed was a harrowing nine-year conflict that saw Islamabad and Moscow on opposite sides in what amounted to the final proxy battle of the Cold War.
Today, however, these roles are shifting. The United States is distancing itself from Pakistan while building a Sinocentric defense partnership with India, Russia's key partner during the Cold War in South Asia. Moscow is responding to Pakistan's overtures by building a stronger partnership with Islamabad. Russia's interests stem in large part from concerns about Afghanistan. The advent of the Islamic State's Khorasan chapter in 2015 stoked Moscow's fears of the transnational extremist group using Afghanistan to launch attacks into Russia's Central Asian periphery. For Pakistan, the threat from the Islamic State's Khorasan affiliate hits even closer to home: On July 6, the group claimed a bombing that killed 149 people in Balochistan, the second deadliest act of terrorism in the country's history.
A map show the major areas of government and insurgent control in Afghanistan.
Unsurprisingly, Moscow's and Islamabad's concerns about the Islamic State are driving them closer while the two countries are experiencing tense relations with Washington. For Russia, its deepening relations with Pakistan overlap with its growing attempt to involve itself as a mediator in Afghanistan. Beginning in December 2016, Moscow hosted the first of several conferences aimed at jump-starting talks between Kabul and the Taliban. Although the Taliban did not attend any of these gatherings, they have accepted Moscow's invitation to take part in an upcoming conference; that acceptance is a sign of the movement's desire to elevate its diplomatic profile by positioning itself as a serious political actor. Initially scheduled for Sept. 4, Moscow has postponed the conference on behalf of Ghani, who wants more time to prepare for what he insists should be Afghan-led negotiations. If Russia succeeds in bringing both Kabul and the Taliban to the same table, the accomplishment would heighten President Vladimir Putin's leverage over negotiations to end a NATO-backed conflict that Washington has failed to resolve.

China Eases In

Finally, China is deepening its role in Afghanistan. Beijing's involvement in Afghanistan after the start of the war was limited to resource extraction, including a $3 billion agreement to develop the Mes Aynak copper mine. But the prospects of persistent Afghan instability after the NATO drawdown in 2014 awakened China — which borders Afghanistan — into playing a more active role. Bigger promises of foreign aid followed, while Beijing used its diplomatic heft to push for talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to try to do the same between the Taliban and Kabul. China has also invited Afghanistan to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. This involvement now is rumored to even include a proposed military base in the Wakhan Corridor. Although Beijing has denied it is planning a military base in Afghanistan, China's expanding diplomatic and economic profile means it will be forced to establish a localized security presence in various theaters. And Afghanistan is a logical starting point, given Beijing's two core concerns regarding the country — namely, Afghanistan's ability to disrupt neighboring Belt and Road Initiative projects and the ability of Uighur militants to use Afghan territory to plot attacks in neighboring Xinjiang province.
Ultimately, the growing involvement of Russia and China with Pakistan will limit Washington's ability to bend Islamabad toward its own strategy in Afghanistan. Although the shared threat posed by the Islamic State's Khorasan affiliate provides a rare unifying purpose for the disparate external actors involved in Afghanistan, the geopolitical tensions inherent in great power competition mean that coordination on resolving the conflict will be intermittent, at best, as the war goes on through 2018.

#Pakistan - Imran Khan: High Hopes, Greater Expectations

#Pakistan: CPEC Chinese Checkmate – Analysis

By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
At least six persons – among them three Chinese engineers – were injured in a suicide attack on a bus in the Dalbandin area of Chagai District in Balochistan in the morning of August 11, 2018. The bus carrying 18 Chinese engineers was being escorted by Frontier Corps (FC) troops to the Dalbandin airport from the Saindaik copper and gold mines when a suicide bomber tried to drive his explosives-laden vehicle into the bus. “The explosives-laden vehicle exploded near the bus on Quetta-Taftan Highway – and as a result three Chinese engineers, two FC soldiers and the bus driver were injured,” an unnamed Levies official stated. Saifullah Khatiran,Deputy Commissioner of Chagai District, disclosed that the engineers were working on the Saindak project, a joint venture between Pakistan and China to extract gold, copper and silver from an area close to the border.The three injured Chinese engineers were identified as Huo Xiaohu, Shi Jiangpeng and You Riwei. The suicide bomber was killed. All the Chinese engineers were later sent to Karachi.
The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attacksaying it was carried out “to warn China to vacate Balochistan and stop plundering its resources”.Jiand Baloch, a ‘spokesperson’ for BLA, stated, “We targeted this bus which was carrying Chinese engineers. We attacked them because they are extracting gold from our region, we won’t allow it.” In a statement issued on Twitter, the militant group identified the suicide bomber as Rehan Baloch,who died in the attack,the elder son of BLA’s ‘senior commander’ Aslam Baloch.
On February 5, 2018, a Chinese national, Chen Zhu (46), who was a top official at a shipping firm, was shot dead by unknown armed assailants in a ‘targeted’ attack at Zamzama Park in Clifton in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh.Azad Khan, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Karachi south zone) stated, “The incident appears to be [a] targeted attack, [it] doesn’t look [like] a mugging… The victim is associated with Cosco Shipping Lines Co, a Chinese shipping company. We are trying to get further details.”
While there was no claim of responsibility and the motive was not immediately clear in the February 5, 2018, attack,the ChineseGovernment had, on December 8, 2017,warned its nationals in Pakistan about plans for imminent attacks on Chinese targets there.The ChineseEmbassy in Islamabad hadstated that it had been informed that terrorists were planning “a series of attacks soon” against Chinese nationals:
“The embassy alerts all Chinese organisations and citizens in Pakistan to stay vigilant, safeguard personal security, reduce time spent outside and avoid going to crowded places as much as possible.”
The Dalbandin suicide attack was the first of its kind in the history of the Baloch insurgency, when a suicide bomber was used in an attack to target the Chinese in Balochistan. The Province is at the heart of the USD 62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a massive series of projects that includes a network of highways, railways and energy infrastructure spanning the entire country.CPEC is a flagship project in China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Nevertheless, the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing claimed thatBaloch militant organisations were no longer a threat to the CPEC, in an interview to BBC Urdu on February 2, 2018, arguing, “If they [Baloch militants] are true Pakistanis, they should work in the interest of Pakistan”. He also hadasserted that Gwadar Port would soon become one of the world’s trading hubs, as the security situation in Pakistan had improved to a large extent over the past few years.Yao Jing also expressed satisfaction over the security provided to about 10,000 Chinese nationals working on different CPEC projects in Pakistan, which also had some 60,000-local people employed on different jobs.
Significantly, China has reportedly been quietly holding talks with the Baloch militants for more than five years in an effort to protect the USD 62 billion worth of infrastructure projects it is financing as part of the CPEC. TheFinancial Times, citing three unnamed people with knowledge of the talks,claimed that the Chinese had been in direct contact with the Baloch insurgents, since many of the scheme’s most important projects were located in the Province.
On February 22, 2018, however, China rejected reports claiming that it has been engaged in a dialogue with Baloch separatists in a bid to secure the CPEC project. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang, when asked about such reports, asserted,”I have never heard of such things as you mentioned.” On February 23, 2018, Pakistan alsodenied the reports that China was holding talks with Baloch insurgents to ensure the security of CPEC projects. Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson, Dr. Mohammad Faisal, said that the Chinese Foreign Ministry had already rejected this speculation, and that both the Governments were constantly in touch and working in coordination on CPEC security matters.
Talks or no talks, discontent persists among the ethnic Baloch people and groups with regard to CPEC. There was, consequently, always a persistent threat to Chinese engineers and people associated with CPEC projects from Baloch nationalists, who considerCPEC part of a ‘strategic design’ by Pakistan and China to loot Balochistan’s resources and eliminate their culture and identity.
Dubbing China a ‘great threat’ to the Baloch people, UNHRC Balochistan representative Mehran Marri argued, on August 13, 2016,
China really-really is spreading its tentacles in Balochistan very rapidly, and therefore, we are appealing to the international community. The Gwadar project is for the Chinese military. This would be detrimental to international powers, to the people’s interest, where 60 percent of world’s oil flows.So, the world has to really take rapid action in curbing China’s influence in Balochistan in particular and in Pakistan in general.
Asserting that CPEC would convert the Baloch people into minorities in their own homeland, Noordin Mengal, a human rights campaigner from Balochistan, stated that, with an influx of outsiders as a result of the project, the identity of the Baloch was being threatened.
Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal, thepro-Government Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) president, asserted, on March 5, 2017, that successive rulers of the country over the preceding 70 years had given nothing to the people of Balochistan, except hunger, poverty, unemployment and lawlessness. He alleged that the rulers had deliberately kept Balochistan backward, and had never paid attention to development, depriving its people of their due rights, including their share in the natural resources of their own Province. He claimed that no development could be seen in Balochistan under the CPEC, and that this project would not benefit its people, as not a single development project had been launched in the region as part of the mega project.
Pakistan currently hosts a sizable Chinese population and the numbers are only slated to grow as the project progresses. Concern about the demographic transformation of Balochistan had been reiterated in a report by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) on December 28, 2016, which noted that, at the current and projected rate of influx of Chinese nationals into Balochistan, the native population of the area would be outnumbered by 2048.
Since the start of the ground work on CPEC, more than 39,000 Chinese have come to Pakistan over the past five years, according to official data and documents reportedon March 5, 2018.As many as 7,859 Chinese were issued visas in 2013, at the start of the CPEC projects, soon after the Nawaz Sharif Government came to power. Another 69 visas were issued in 2014; 13,268 in 2015; 6,268 in 2016; and, according to informed officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an estimated 12,287 in 2017.In addition, officials told the media that about 91,000 Chinese nationals visited Pakistan on tourist visas over this period.
Militants trying to disrupt construction of CPEC projects in Balochistan had killed 44 workers between 2014 and September 7, 2016. According to Colonel Zafar Iqbal, a spokesperson for the construction company Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), speaking on this date, “The latest figure has climbed up to 44 deaths and over 100 wounded men on CPEC projects, mainly road construction in Balochistan, which began in 2014.” Since September 7, 2016, according to theSouth Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), another 17 persons have been killed in different CPEC related projects across the province (till August 31, 2018).
The Government of Pakistan has deputed an estimated 37,000 security personnel to guard Chinese workers engaged in some 22 projects directly associated with the CPEC and another 214 related small and mega projects in Pakistan. These include 15,780 military personnel trained under the umbrella of the Special Security Division (SSD) and the Maritime Security Force (MSF). Balochistan is to get more security with the addition of 450 personnel of the MSF for coastal areas; six wings comprising 6,700 personnel of the Frontier Corps; 3,210 Police constables; and 1,320 Levies personnel to guard project routes.
Despite this,China appears to lack confidence in Pakistan’s assurance of security to all Chinese citizens, and is reportedly building a city to house half a million Chinese nationals at a cost of USD 150 million in the port city of Gwadar. According to media reports, only Chinese citizens will live in this gated zone, thus paving the way for the establishment of a Chinese colony within Pakistan. The proposed city will also be a Financial District.The China-Pak Investment Corporation has bought the 3.6-million square foot International Port City and will build a gated community for the anticipated 500,000 Chinese professionals who will be located there by 2022.
On August 20, 2018,Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan assured Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that his Government would take “strictest precautions” for the security and safety of Chinese personnel working on CPEC.Khan assured Keqiang of all help to protect projects under the CPEC, which had come under sporadic militant attacks. However, as long as, Pakistan’s all-powerful Army and civilian leadership fail to address legitimate grievances of the Baloch people, the threat to CPEC related projects in the Province will persist.

#DefenceDay - Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhuttoi’s message on Defence Day of Pakistan

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that a befitting celebration of Defence Day of Pakistan is to protect geography, ideology and democracy and pay glowing tributes to those fellow citizens and soldiers who embraced martyrdom in defending the nation.
In his message on the Defence Day of Pakistan, the PPP Chairman said that extremism and militancy were the main current threats and entire nation along with all institutions have to be on same page to defend the country.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that September 6, 1965 was the day when both citizens and armed forces put a valiant fight in a conventional war against the much bigger adversary India, which forced it to initiate and expedite its nuclear programme. He pointed out that it was only Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who noticed hegemonic Indian nuclear intentions in the region and he laid foundation of nuclear programme to balance the security environment providing base for an invincible status to the future Pakistan. “Prime Minister Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto brought in the Ballistic Missile Technology to strengthen the defence of the country,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari further said.
PPP Chairman stated that martyrs, both sons and daughters of Pakistan would be remembered and revered in our history as heroes and to pay homage, we salute to them.