Sunday, August 18, 2019
By Paul R. Pillar Kabul must learn to grapple with its Taliban Anyone looking in Afghanistan for an easily understood story of good versus evil, or moderation versus extremism, will be disappointed. That war-torn country is a congeries of conflicts with diverse ethnic, sectarian, and ideological overtones. Battles are fought between antagonists who hate each other but each exemplify values far different from anything that Americans would identify with or want to defend. And that’s just the internal Afghan conflicts, on top of which is the added complexity of external involvement by Pakistan, India, and others. Such a place is unfavorable territory for prosecuting what has become America’s longest war, which has no military solution in sight. President Donald Trump is right to seek a negotiated agreement that would permit a U.S. military withdrawal, even though his diplomatic clumsiness, on display during a meeting with the Pakistani prime minister, needlessly offended Afghans with talk about how he could wipe Afghanistan off the face of the Earth if he chose to, and needlessly angered Indians with his false claim that New Delhi wanted him to mediate the Kashmir dispute. Whatever agreement emerges from ongoing negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is sure to face criticism from people in Washington quick to focus on what an undesirable lot the Taliban are. Indeed, there is much to loathe about the Taliban’s domestic policies, especially regarding their medieval views about the role of women. But the critics should keep in mind the complexities of Afghan conflict and which, if any, issues involving Afghanistan really are important enough to the United States to become make-or-break issues in negotiations. International terrorism, which can affect U.S. interests, is probably the most often cited rationale for U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. The rationale routinely overstates the supposed uniqueness of Afghanistan as a base for terrorists, an overstatement that projects into the future some irreproducible circumstances of the past. Nonetheless, there are real terrorists in Afghanistan, and on this issue it is worth reflecting on somereporting by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius during a recent visit there. Ignatius refers to fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State or ISIS. In a couple of provinces in the north and west of the country, ISIS fighters faced a “double whammy: U.S. counterterrorism forces struck the top leadership, and mainstream Taliban fighters cleaned up the rest.” The fact that the Taliban and the United States share a common enemy in the form of ISIS leads Ignatius to wonder, “Could the United States and the Taliban quietly cooperate against a common enemy, after a peace deal?” Setting aside details about what this might imply regarding any residual U.S. military presence, more fundamental observations follow from this line-up of conflict and cooperation. One is that the Afghan Taliban are not international terrorists. They never have been, even when, in a marriage of convenience, they hosted Osama bin Laden’s organization to get its help in the Afghan civil war than raging. The Taliban think negative and violent thoughts about the United States only insofar as the United States interferes with the Taliban’s objectives regarding the organization of politics and society inside Afghanistan.Another observation is that even loathsome actors can be counterterrorist partners. Indeed, the story of counterterrorism worldwide is filled with strange bedfellows, although most of the cooperation that matters takes place out of public view. What’s more, a loathsome but local partner may be even more effective in the counterterrorist tasks that matter most than the United States would be. When someone else can do the fighting and dying for their own local reasons, and to combat an international terrorist group in the process, so much the better for the United States. Finally, doing business with a distasteful element such as the Taliban, only some of whose interests parallel those of the United States, is not a reason to tie the United States to everything else such an element does. Nor is it a reason similarly to tie any other outside actor that has specific reasons to do business with the Taliban. The Trump administration, as part of its misrepresentation-filled campaign of stoking hostility toward Iran, has gone so far as to blame Iran for car bombs in Afghanistan that Tehran probably had nothing to do with. On the eve of a possible U.S. agreement with the Taliban, which will be followed by the Taliban continuing to blow things up as it fights its enemies within Afghanistan, the administration needs to be more careful about such stone-throwing Iran, by the way, has interests regarding Afghanistan, the Afghan civil war, and terrorism that closely parallel the interests of the United States—just as it did in the first few months of the U.S. intervention, when Iran provided critical help in midwifing a new Afghan government to replace the Taliban. Iranian interests have suffered in the past at the hands of the Taliban, and in more recent years from attacks by ISIS. There is no shortage of strange bedfellows in combating the likes of ISIS.Whenever Ambassador Khalilzad’s negotiations bear fruit, the result should be judged not by the company that the United States has been keeping in the negotiating room but instead by how well the result upholds genuine U.S. interests while extracting it from its longest war in history. https://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/uncomfortable-truth-about-afghanistans-future-73886
Could this complicate the US-Taliban deal?
#Kashmir Vs #Pakistan - Promises broken and kept - #Pakistan must fulfil promises made to its own citizens.
By Pervez Hoodbhoy
NO Indian prime minister could have stated his promise to Kashmiris more clearly, eloquently and unequivocally: “We do not want to win people against their will and with the help of armed force; and, if the people of Jammu and Kashmir State wish to part company with us, they can go their way and we shall go ours. We want no forced marriages, no forced unions” (Jawaharlal Nehru, Aug 7, 1952).
This solemn commitment was soon broken but not all was lost. Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution granted India-held Kashmir an autonomous status within the Indian union. Howsoever unsatisfactory and diluted by subsequent governments, in principle, they provided some measure of self-rule. But last week, almost exactly 67 years later, the remaining bits were blasted away when the Modi government revoked these articles.In a world increasingly tolerant of majoritarian diktat, no global outcry followed. Awed by India’s economic might and growing political clout, the OIC limited itself to the “curtailment of religious freedoms of Kashmiri Muslims”. China took the opportunity to emphasise its own dispute over Aksai-Chin, stopping well short of condemning India. Most disappointingly, for all the red carpets, rose showers, and personal chauffeuring by Prime Minister Khan, MBS of Saudi Arabia kept his royal mouth tightly shut. The UAE went with India.
Pakistan has kept its commitments to Kashmiris; now it must fulfil promises made to its own citizens.
Friendless, and with the euphoric spurt from Trump’s off-the-cuff mediation offer gone in a puff of smoke, Pakistan says it will still continue to fight back. Our leaders say that to do nothing would violate our 70-year-old commitment to the people of Kashmir to whom we promised political, moral, and diplomatic (PMD) support. Indeed, for 70 years Pakistan has copiously supplied PMD support — followed by support that went well beyond PMD. The latter has come back to haunt; the sword of FATF hangs in full view. To let it fall invites economic catastrophe; to work around it risks perils and pitfalls.
Let’s examine the options available to Pakistan.
Building upon BBC reports and the harrowing news leaking out of Kashmir, Pakistan could focus upon the tribulations of an occupied population. More PMD stuff is easily doable — fly Pakistani and Kashmiri flags together on national days in Pakistan and its overseas embassies; instead of the annual Kashmir Day (Feb 5) make total national shutdowns biannual or perhaps even monthly; bring still more energetic speakers like Zaid Hamid on to TV screens; start morning school assemblies with pledges to liberate Kashmir; etc.
What then? Jacking up public fervour takes little. But as expectations rise, so will the clamour to do more. This shall challenge the Pakistani state, and appeal to discordant voices within the establishment. Public rumblings against the no-war line taken by Prime Minister Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi — who presumably took it after GHQ nodded its approval — are already audible. There is talk of betrayal.
This is an open vulnerability awaiting exploitation by a desperate opposition that is being hounded to the ground by Khan. Unprincipled politicians could make passionate appeals to a charged public that thinks war with India just means downing a few more Bisons and capturing more Abhinandans. The establishment’s inaction will seem inexplicable. Just as Musharraf was pilloried after 9/11 for being an American stooge and then targeted by suicide attacks, Khan and company could be held as sellouts to the IMF for unduly harassing Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar.This challenge can only increase in severity in the months ahead. Kashmiris, whether aided or unaided by Pakistan, are bound to react against yet more brutalisation. More Pakistani flags will appear in protest demonstrations but Modi has taken the gamble of his life and doesn’t care. He will simply lay the blame for another Pulwama on Pakistan’s doorstep. How clean and limited the subsequent Indian surgical strike will be — and similarly for the expected counterstrike by Pakistan — one cannot predict.On the diplomatic front, Pakistan could engage pricey PR firms, send swarms of diplomats abroad, and require its foreign minister to hop non-stop from one capital to the next. Prime Minister Khan, in his speech before the Azad Kashmir Assembly, promised to become Kashmir’s ambassador to the world. He is trying his best. One doesn’t know if Trump will pick up the phone, but so far Khan’s calls to Boris Johnson, Mohammad bin Sultan, and Tayyip Erdogan have produced plain vanilla stuff. It’s not his fault — Nawaz Sharif too had tried and then let his failure eventually dribble through ‘Dawn leaks’.
On the nuclear side, there’s not much to be done. Adding a few more warheads, SLBMs, TNWs, cruise missiles, or increasing ranges and accuracies will have zero effect upon Kashmir. Many years ago, Pakistan and India crossed the point where they could mutually obliterate each other. This, for better or worse, means that the LoC has been frozen. Apart from occasional fiery threats from second-tier political leaders, both countries carefully avoided mention of nuclear weapons after Pulwama. This is very different from the shrillness during India-Pakistan crises in 2002 (Parakaram), 1999 (Kargil), May 1990, and possibly 1987 (Brasstacks).
Pakistan has fulfilled its PMD commitments to the people of Kashmir and done every bit it could. Now it must repair the broken commitments made earlier to the people of Pakistan. The country is in bad shape. It is financially desperate; science and technology-wise it stands nowhere; the largely unskilled workforce is unequipped for a modern economy; population rise is out of control; education is of abysmal quality and access to it is small; work ethics are poor and the citizenry prone to violent behaviour. It has been outstripped by Bangladesh which now enjoys a higher GNP per capita, has much greater foreign exchange reserves, a tight lid on population growth, and offers a much wider net of social services.
The solemn commitments made to the people of Pakistan by every subsequent political leader since Mohammad Ali Jinnah must finally be taken seriously. Although the window is narrowing, it can still be done. The condition: prioritise social welfare and economic development. All else must perforce take care of itself — we come first, everyone else comes second.
Philosophically, it is difficult to argue with this: India is a voluntary federation of states, so how can you force people to stay with you if they don’t want it? No surprise that this view also finds sympathy among a lot of fundamentally liberal and young elites. I understand the perils in picking an argument with them because this very position gives them the higher moral ground. But we live dangerously.L
Sindh Minister for Information & Archives Saeed Ghani has said that the one year rule of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) had so far been full of blunders and despair. He said that incompetence, inexperience, ineptitude, incapability, and self-righteousness are the hallmark of the PTI government.
In a statement issued here on Sunday, Saeed Ghani said that the promise of good governance seemed far from being fulfilled. Instead, bedlam, dysfunctioning of administration, chaos, and mayhem remained the buzzword during the last one year, he added.
He said that leaders of the PTI should not have made overstatements before coming to power. Ghani said that the people of the country went through the most difficult times of their lives during the first year of the PTI regime.
The provincial minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan was doing everything that he had censured the previous governments for. He said that the prime minister failed to deliver on every promise he made before coming to power and the performance of his cabinet during last year was quite reprehensible. Every scheme that had been once labeled by Imran Khan as ‘legalized corruption’ had now been adopted by him, he added.
He said that people had been only given a pack of lies during last year. He said that for Imran Khan taking U-turns was the quality of good leadership. He said that economic turmoil was another feature of the PTI government during its first year. His so-called austerity drive was also just nominal as the order of 70 luxury vehicles for his Punjab cabinet ministers was no more a secret, he maintained.
Saeed Ghani further stated that the cost of these vehicles was much higher than the money fetched by selling the luxury vehicles of the Prime Minister House. The performance of the PTI for the last one year was neither striking nor impressive but it was full of lies and U-turns, he added.
He said that instead of creating 10 million jobs and building five million homes the PTI regime’s policies had resulted in unemployment and homelessness. People today were unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing due to unsteady income which was a result of the unplanned economic policies of Niazi’s regime, he stated.
He said that owing to constant partial accountability and use of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for personal vendetta the bureaucracy was not willing to take responsibility for any decision. Even after the premature change of financial authorities, the tax reforms of the present regime had also failed miserably, he added.