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Author Topic: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan  (Read 275861 times)
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« Reply #1450 on: January 15, 2015, 10:29:40 PM »

And why its hard to figure out, whats happening in pakiland

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« Reply #1451 on: January 16, 2015, 04:44:31 PM »

 The Islamic State Reaches Into Afghanistan and Pakistan
January 16, 2015 | 10:15 GMT Print Text Size
A Pakistani man holds a pamphlet purportedly distributed by the Islamic State in Peshawar. (A MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images)

The establishment of the Khorasan chapter of the Islamic State in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region strengthens the group's image as a phenomenon with global reach. But the new chapter's links to the Islamic State are fragile, and it owes its existence more to the fragmentation of the cross-border Taliban movement than to anything the Islamic State has done. The Khorasan chapter, like other Islamic State affiliates beyond the Syrian-Iraqi battlespace, will be met with local resistance from jihadist forces and al Qaeda who see groups friendly toward the Islamic State as a challenge to their authority.


According to The News International, the largest English-language daily in Pakistan, the Islamic State announced the creation of a Khorasan chapter in a video released Jan. 13. (Khorasan theoretically includes Iran and Central Asia, in addition to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but so far the chapter is only functioning in the latter two countries.) In the video, a former Pakistani Taliban spokesman by the name of Shahidullah Shahid announced the names of the Islamic State commanders responsible for various parts of Afghanistan and revealed the chapter's new leader, a former Pakistani Taliban figure named Saeed Khan. Lending credibility to the announcement of the group's establishment, Afghan government officials have in recent days told Afghan media of the Islamic State's growing presence in several eastern and southern provinces, saying the group is fighting both Afghan security forces and Taliban militiamen.

In response to those reports, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi sent an email to the Afghan Islamic Press agency, denouncing the reports as propaganda put forth by Kabul and Western governments. He denied that the Islamic State's black flags were flying in several areas where the Taliban are usually active, and insisted that all the "mujahideen" were fighting under the white flag of the Taliban movement and asserted that there was no infighting within the movement.
Taliban Fragmentation

Despite Ahmadi's claims to the contrary, there is growing evidence that elements from the Pakistani and, to a lesser extent, the Afghan Taliban have defected. It is understandable that the Pakistani Taliban would fracture; the group has tended toward transnationalism since its inception, and more recently it has suffered significant losses and struggled with internal dissension. Moreover, the Islamic State has eclipsed the Pakistani Taliban's erstwhile ally, al Qaeda, so alliance with the group seen as the rising star would be reasonable. The Pakistani Taliban have also been far more sectarian than their Afghan counterparts, and the Islamic State's blatant and aggressive anti-Shiite doctrine appeals to them.

While the Afghan Taliban are not hemorrhaging as badly as their Pakistani counterparts, they have had their share of fragmentation over the years. Initially, the source of the frictions was the absence of the group's founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, who has been in hiding since 9/11. The separation has meant considerable autonomy for field commanders. The Haqqani faction best represents this trend.

But ever since the Taliban acknowledged that they were in talks with the United States in 2011, the group, whose hard-line elements oppose the talks, has become even less cohesive. Al Qaeda has tried for years to exploit this discord but it has had only moderate success. Besides, the talks have not produced much — only a political bureau in Qatar and a few tactical agreements.

However, with improved relations between Kabul and Islamabad, China's emergence as a key international interlocutor and the coming to power of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the peace talks have been revived. These renewed efforts come at the same time that the Islamic State is gaining support among jihadists and sectarian militants on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The key is the Islamic State expansion in Southwest Asia — to the degree that it is actually happening — is taking place because of divisions among existing jihadists.

If the existing divisions in the Taliban movement become more acute, it still does not mean the Islamic State will take over the jihadist landscape in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead, it will be just one more name in an already saturated jihadist market. The ensuing competition will be bloody and will contribute to the overall weakening of jihadism, which is already under a great deal of pressure given the paradigm shift that has been in the making in Pakistan for a few years now and the fact that the Afghan Taliban want to be internationally recognized as an Afghan national force.
Afghan Taliban Position

Already the Afghan Taliban have been portraying themselves as a national jihadist force and distancing themselves from al Qaeda's transnational agenda. While al Qaeda did not challenge the Taliban — and in fact paid allegiance to its chief — the Islamic State, with its professed caliphate, poses a direct threat to the Taliban. Since Mullah Omar claims only to lead the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, he is theoretically lesser in stature than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who claims to be caliph of all Muslims. The Islamic State was also critical of Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban in the latest edition of its Dabiq magazine.

Pledging allegiance to al-Baghdadi would weaken Mullah Omar's position and that of his movement. The Islamic State is unlikely to supplant the Afghan Taliban. However, the Islamic State's spread does create divisions in the jihadist landscape that undermine the position of the Taliban. Furthermore, the sectarian agenda of the Islamic State complicates the negotiations that the Taliban are having with the Afghan government and threatens to draw Iran into the country.

As groups aligned with the Islamic State grow in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in large part recruiting from the Taliban movement, we can expect jihadists in the region to fight back to retain their own influence. Eventually an intra-jihadist struggle could emerge far more intense than what is currently underway in Iraq and Syria, but the Islamic State will not dominate the area as it has in the Levant and Mesopotamia.

Read more: The Islamic State Reaches Into Afghanistan and Pakistan | Stratfor
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« Reply #1452 on: January 16, 2015, 10:31:36 PM »

The question is who is the greenest of them all...and IS wins hands down....and so the jihadi flight to "quality".
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« Reply #1453 on: January 17, 2015, 08:57:31 PM »

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« Reply #1454 on: February 01, 2015, 09:58:38 PM »
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« Reply #1455 on: February 04, 2015, 11:38:40 PM »

How Not to Squander Hard-Won Gains in Afghanistan
The woes are well-known, the strengths too often forgotten. Major cities and roads, for example, are increasingly safe.
Michael O’Hanlon
Feb. 4, 2015 7:15 p.m. ET

As President Obama prepares to pull all U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of next year, the recent news coverage of America’s longest war is depressingly violent and familiar. Suicide bombings and insider attacks in Kabul, Taliban comebacks in parts of Helmand and Kunduz provinces (in the south and northeast respectively), continued insurgent activity throughout much of the east, and high casualties to Afghan soldiers and police.

But after my systematic survey in consultation with the U.S. command in Afghanistan, unclassified reporting and other information, I would argue that the security situation is on balance stressed but generally holding. It has deteriorated somewhat over the past couple of years, as NATO forces have dramatically downsized, from a high of nearly 150,000 in 2010-11 to about 15,000 today. But thanks largely to the hard work and sacrifices of Afghan security forces as well as recent political compromise in Kabul, Afghanistan is by no mean a failing state.

The core Western requirement of preventing a large-scale extremist sanctuary on Afghan soil continues to be met. This central fact should guide Mr. Obama, Congress and the 2016 presidential hopefuls. The war is not won, but those who base their thinking on the premise that the war is lost need to reconsider.
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Hamilton Foundation President Christian Whiton on reports the Obama administration wants to talk with Kim Jong Un, only weeks after Pyongyang’s cyberattack on Sony Pictures. Photo credit: Getty Images.

While Afghanistan’s woes are well known, its strengths are often forgotten. The country has a security force of 350,000 that, unlike the Iraqi army in 2014, has not dissolved in the face of battle or split along ethnic lines. President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have fashioned a workable political compromise out of last year’s tortured election process, bridging major ethnic and power-broker divides and this January beginning to forge a cabinet.

This political reconciliation makes it likely that the security forces will continue to respect central-government authority. The nation’s citizenry remains strongly anti-Taliban, partly due to a much-improved quality of life since 2001, and evinces much greater political awareness and participation.

Consider recent security trends:

• Most major cities remain safer for Afghan citizens than they were even four or five years ago. There has been some worsening on balance over the past one to two years, in Kabul particularly, and some smaller cities in the south and northeast. But on balance the country’s largest cities after Kabul—Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif—are not becoming more violent or anarchic. Kandahar, where the Taliban movement originated, is probably safer than at any time in the past seven or eight years. Of the country’s 34 provinces, no capital cities are inaccessible to the government.

• Many rural areas remain contested and not in government hands. Most have not benefited in a lasting way from the “clear, hold, build” paradigm recommended by standard counterinsurgency logic and advocated by Gens. Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus . Yet there are only a few significant swaths of territory where the central Taliban organization truly controls an area, as in parts of Helmand, Kunduz, Wardak, Kunar, Nangahar and Khost provinces.

• Most major roads in Afghanistan remain usable and well traveled. A majority, even if only a small majority, of citizens in recent polls report feeling truly safe on the nation’s highways, according to data provided by the U.S. command in Kabul. The so-called ring road, including the key section from Kabul to Kandahar, generally fits this description.
An Afghan laborer pulls a cart carrying mattresses on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan. ENLARGE
An Afghan laborer pulls a cart carrying mattresses on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Associated Press

A useful way to put today’s security picture in perspective is to ask what kinds of events or dynamics could plausibly produce a collapse of Afghanistan, and then to compare these to current conditions.

If Congress and other donors like Japan and European countries cut off funds for the Afghan army and police, Afghan security forces could face the dilemmas they did when the Soviet Union dissolved and ended financial support for the Najibullah government in the early 1990s. But even as Western parliaments chip away at aid, they are wisely sustaining flows of several billion dollars a year.

If Messrs. Ghani and Abdullah and other key actors stopped cooperating and sent their followers onto the streets in zero-sum political showdowns, civil war could erupt along ethnic lines. Yet this is not happening, partly due to the stabilizing presence of even much-reduced numbers of NATO forces.

If Pakistan went all out in supporting the Afghan Taliban, it is not clear that Kabul could fend off the challenge. But Islamabad’s interest seems less in destroying Afghanistan than in exercising continued leverage. This is regrettable and short-sighted but it is not an all-out proxy war.

And if Afghanistan’s youth stop joining the army and police, losses from battle could not be replaced. Yet in a country where national pride is greater than we in the West acknowledge—and where other economic opportunities are limited—army and police recruiting hasn’t been a problem despite combat fatalities of about 5,000 annually over the past two years.

While U.S. policy makers may feel discouraged, they should not be despondent or fatalistic. If Congress sustains financial help for the Afghan state, and especially if President Obama rethinks his plan to zero out U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan by the end of 2016, something resembling partial success in this very long and costly war is still possible.

Mr. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is co-author with Hassina Sherjan of “Toughing It Out in Afghanistan” (Brookings, 2010).
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« Reply #1456 on: March 08, 2015, 01:22:11 PM »
The Hardest (and Most Important) Job in Afghanistan
A week on the front lines with the Afghan National Police.


Early one cold January morning on the high plains of eastern Afghanistan, Maj. Mohammad Qasim and a few of his officers gathered in the rundown barracks that serve as a district headquarters for the Afghan National Police in Baraki Barak. Qasim and his officers were the only government security available to the 100,000 people living in a district roughly twice the size of Manhattan, and about half of the district was now controlled by the Taliban. Kabul is just 40 miles away, but the Afghan National Army had not been to Baraki Barak in two years. The ceiling in Qasim’s office leaked when it rained, and the electricity was out indefinitely, so the men had taken to sitting on floor cushions around the wood stove in Qasim’s bedroom, drinking green tea from smudged glass mugs and dealing with the problems of the day. This morning, the first problem was the death of Hajji Khalil.

He had been one of the wealthiest men in Chiltan, a small village about eight miles from the district headquarters. He farmed apples and apricots, and he owned a grocery store hundreds of miles away in the Pakistani city of Quetta. He also ran a hawala, an informal money-transfer business, through which Afghan workers in Iran sent money home to their families. Khalil was deeply troubled when, a little more than a year ago, he saw Taliban insurgents walking openly in Chiltan, pressing young men to join them and questioning anyone who seemed connected to the government. His status earned him the respect of the Taliban — “hajji” is an honorific for Muslims who have completed the hajj; like many Afghans, he has only one name — but it also obliged him to respond to their harassment of his neighbors. With Qasim’s help, he organized about 50 of his neighbors, including two of his brothers, into a militia — one of a few dozen such groups, referred to as “uprisers,” who have joined the government in battling the Taliban. Armed with secondhand rifles, the militia helped Qasim’s men in a firefight in the next village over. After that, the Taliban knew they could no longer walk freely in Chiltan.

Now Khalil was dead, murdered a few days earlier on his way home from a meeting with Qasim right here at the district headquarters. Three Taliban gunmen had fired into his car, exploding a propane canister in the trunk and incinerating the vehicle, along with Khalil and two passengers. A third passenger who survived, and even managed to shoot and kill one of the fleeing insurgents, was now recovering at a hospital in Kabul. But Qasim needed to compensate Khalil’s family for his death, and quickly, before the remaining uprisers of Chiltan — farmers, shepherds and unemployed men, maybe 17 in all — decided that the fighting was no longer worth the effort.
Qasim during a visit to Shah Aghasi, a village on a front line in the fight against the Taliban. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

One officer had drafted a diagram of the attack to attach to the death-­payment requisition for the Interior Ministry, and Qasim, who is just over 50, squat and potbellied with an unruly beard, now peered down at it. “This is all wrong,” he said, shaking his head. Landmarks were missing, distances miscalculated. The river went the wrong way.

The author of the map was unabashed: What did it matter? Who in Kabul would even know the difference?

In answer, Qasim put the drawing aside and, with a clean sheet of paper and a ruler, began drawing a new diagram. He drew a compass, then he sketched the roads, the footpaths, the farmland, the water and all the other landmarks. Eight minutes passed. Qasim placed the two maps side by side and looked at the officer.

“Your drawing is fine,” he said. “But this map explains itself.”

In a district shadowed by constant violence, it was seemingly left to Qasim, and to him alone, to prevent a slide into anarchy. A week earlier, masked men dragged the district judge, Ghulam Hassan, from his car and pummeled him unconscious, leaving him on the side of a dirt road. Now, as another officer who had just rushed into Qasim’s bedroom was explaining, the judge had sent word from his hospital bed that he no longer felt safe working in Baraki Barak. He wanted to move the courts to Pul-i-Alam, the provincial capital. Qasim saw where such a move would lead. No one would use the courts if they were in Pul-i-Alam, a half-hour drive by the safer of two roads. The prosecutor would leave next, forced to abandon the district, having nowhere to work. Then, with every other civil service absent, the district governor, who rarely spent time here anyway, would probably disappear. It would amount to a Taliban takeover. A single beating could collapse what little civil society remained in the district.

Qasim picked up his cellphone, a punch-button Nokia relic, and began making calls to local politicians, arguing that they should use all their influence to prevent the judge from fleeing. “The district governor should be doing this,” Qasim told me. “But he’s hiding.” As it happened, the governor’s office was just on the other side of the compound. After a few calls, Qasim tore a scrap of paper from a notebook, scribbled on it and handed it to an officer. I asked him what the scrap was for. He said it was an i.o.u.: $3 for cellphone refill cards from the shopkeeper in the bazaar across the street. “We haven’t been paid our salaries in two months,” he said.

Armed with pledges of support from his political connections, Qasim decided to walk over to the governor’s office. The governor, Mohammad Rahim Amin, rose to embrace Qasim, who in turn introduced me. We sat near the window, in the sunlight that was the main source of heat in the office. Amin, a tall man with carefully combed hair, understood the situation. Qasim had brought a reporter; better behave. The chief made his pitch — “If we lose the courts, we lose the people,” he concluded — and Amin leaned back in his chair, a practiced look of concern spreading across his face. He looked at me, then looked at his cellphone, an iPhone 6, for several moments.

“We will keep the courts here,” he said finally. “If the judge refuses, he can quit. We’ll find someone else who is willing to stay.” What little government there was would remain, at least for a few more days.

The Afghan Police are on the front lines of both fights that matter in Afghanistan: one to defeat the Taliban, the other to gain the loyalty of the people. It is the same conundrum faced by the police in conflict zones from Iraq to El Salvador: To deliver services, there must be security; to deliver security, there must be services. And in too much of Afghanistan today, there is neither. In Baraki Barak, 30 of Qasim’s 200 officers were killed in the last year, representing one of the highest police death rates in all of Afghanistan.

Nationwide, of the 5,588 security personnel who died in 2014 — the deadliest year on record — 3,720 were police officers, double the number of soldiers killed on the job, according to an internal report that a Western official provided to me. (He asked to remain anonymous because he did not want to publicly contradict the lower numbers published by the Afghan government.) Civilian casualties, meanwhile, surpassed 10,000, the highest number since the United Nations began tracking them in 2009. No one expects 2015 to be any less violent. As the American military continues to scale back — declining air support, almost zero combat missions, fewer advisers and mentors to aid battle planning — the situation will most likely deteriorate further.

Members of the Afghan National Police are largely illiterate, widely reputed to be on the take and in some cases actively working with the Taliban they are charged with defeating. A nationwide drug screening in 2009 found that more than a fifth of the force tested positive for drug use, primarily hashish. Physical abuse is commonplace: The United Nations interviewed 300 detainees held by the police over the course of the last two years, and roughly a third of them provided credible evidence that the police had tortured them, using electric shocks, asphyxiation and other methods to extract confessions. In a country where police work and military work are nearly identical, some police officers have engaged in, as a 2013 State Department report put it, “arbitrary or unlawful killings.”

The victims of the killings are often other police officers. In early February, two officers with unknown motives helped arrange a Taliban assault on a police checkpoint, leading to the deaths of 11 fellow officers. Last summer, one officer in southern Afghanistan knocked out five others with a sedative, then invited the Taliban into the police compound to execute them. On the same day at another base, an officer let six Taliban assassins creep past the security perimeter and kill six of his comrades as they slept. These betrayals are just one facet of the complex local power struggles that define postwar Afghanistan. A war for peace begets compromise. The quiet release of insurgents is common, as are tacit cease-fires observed for the sake of the people.

The 157,000-man Afghan National Police operates in nearly every one of Afghanistan’s 364 districts. Recently it has been supplemented by the Afghan Local Police, a group of roughly 30,000 men who live and work in their own remote villages and try to keep the Taliban at bay; the local officers are paid less, enjoy an even worse reputation and die at higher rates than the national police. Together, these two forces have been left to deliver whatever services the state has to offer. They battle the Taliban, but they also investigate robberies, issue identification cards, settle land disputes and manage traffic. Just resolving a simple domestic dispute can require driving roads seeded with bombs.

The Taliban, hoping to regain control of Afghanistan, recognize that the police pose far more than a military threat. They are, in fact, direct competitors for the support of the people. Victory will go not to the side with more bullets but to the side that delivers better services. The Taliban strike many as ascetic and brutal, but they also promise rule of law (Islamic law), less corruption (than the government) and above all peace.

I had come to Baraki Barak with a photographer, Tyler Hicks, to see how the police in an especially violent district would deal with their many challenges. When I asked Brig. Gen. Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai, the Afghan National Police commander who oversees all of Logar, the province that is home to Baraki Barak, who his best police chief was, he told me without hesitation that it was Qasim. He was older; he understood the importance of connecting with the people; his sons worked with him in the district, where he grew up; and for a short time, he had even been a schoolteacher there. He was rooted in the community, Ishaqzai said. Qasim’s most trusted deputy, a widely respected local police chief named Sabir Khan, was also one of his closest friends.

As any beat cop knows, the ability to police an area is predicated on a relationship with the people. But the beat cop’s greatest asset is also his greatest vulnerability. Being more approachable — driving soft-skin FordRangers, not wearing body armor, establishing checkpoints without heavy concrete barriers — means the Taliban can target the police with greater ease. That has forced the police to militarize and has made it even harder to deliver the services that Afghans need. “Unfortunately, this will be the case for years to come,” the Afghan national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, told me in a rare interview. It’s not that the police wanted to fight. They had no choice. Better munitions, including heavy weapons like artillery, might prevent casualties. “Only after there is peace can we try to demilitarize the police and build a truly civilian force,” he said.

This is no longer an American war, regardless of how many United States Special Operations forces continue to sweep the mountains for insurgents or how many American warplanes fire missiles into remote desert camps. That war, by most accounts, has been lost. In the face of endless violence, the Taliban have not been killed off. The nation is not pacified, the political future remains deeply uncertain and the death toll has never been higher. For the central government in Kabul, the real fight is to persuade the population, not to kill insurgents. And the police, local and national, are the only ones who can win it.

When we returned from the governor’s office, two of Hajji Khalil’s brothers, Farhad and Abdul Wakil, were there to discuss the future of the Chiltan uprising. Farhad was an engineer; he graduated from college in Jalalabad and ran a construction company that built roads, schools and clinics in Kabul and Pul-i-Alam. Abdul Wakil worked at Farhad’s company. They were covered from head to toe in a layer of fine dust. Neither had done much construction since the uprising began, and now they were the movement’s de facto leaders. Qasim offered them tea, and we all sat down on the cushions near the stove.
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Farhad barely greeted Qasim. He hadn’t slept in days and seemed to harbor little warmth for the police. But he acknowledged that the Chiltan militia was in chaos. Hajji Khalil had been a popular leader. When local families fell on tough times, he helped pay for their children’s marriages. He bought lunch for the construction crews that turned up to build roads, at least before the Taliban put a stop to such development. If a man like him could be killed in the middle of the day, less than a mile from Qasim’s own headquarters, who was safe? Without Khalil’s leadership, the uprisers were no longer patrolling the roads. Some were even refusing to leave their homes. At the same time, Farhad had told me, funding from the National Directorate of Security in Kabul had dropped significantly, as budgets sank in the wake of the American withdrawal. Qasim was all they had now. They needed support, Farhad said to the chief. They needed a plan, and they needed bullets.

“Don’t worry,” Qasim said, leaning forward, hands out, palms down. “We will be with you.” He knew that if the uprisers of Chiltan gave up, the repercussions would be felt all the way to Kabul. Hajji Khalil’s work in Chiltan had interrupted an important Taliban smuggling route. Qasim promised the brothers that this effort would be recognized, that justice would be served. An informer had named five young people from a village near the site of the ambush who acted as spies for the Taliban by providing Khalil’s location that day.

Abdul Wakil, who had said almost nothing, now spoke: “Leave those men to us.” He looked directly at Qasim.

“No,” Qasim said. Vigilantism would not do. “We are collecting evidence, and once we have enough, we will arrest them.”

There was a final bit of business. Farhad had heard a rumor: The Afghan National Army was returning at last to Baraki Barak. As the Americans closed bases and international military support receded, the army had for two years been falling back, especially from rural areas — too many losses for too little gain. In some regions, the army knew that this was tantamount to a retreat, that the territory would fall to the Taliban. But what was the alternative? With fewer forces on the ground and their international partners no longer around to fight, the army’s focus shifted by necessity from remote areas like this to roads and population centers.

For more than a year, Qasim had campaigned to get soldiers deployed to his district. For more than a year, he was ignored. But the death of Hajji Khalil might have finally rattled some of the decision makers in Kabul. If this was true, Farhad said, he wanted assurances that the army would not simply reoccupy its abandoned base and leave the men of Chiltan to fend for themselves. He need the soldiers. “They must set up a check post in Chiltan,” he said.

Qasim had heard the same rumors, but he could make no promises for the army. He sent two officers to an ammunition locker, and they returned with five boxes of AK-47 ammunition and three rocket-propelled grenades, drawn from his own dwindling supply. There would be more to come, he promised — more men, perhaps even a Humvee. Farhad said nothing. The brothers loaded the weapons into the back of their station wagon and left.
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The next day, Qasim sent a young detective, Zulfaqar, fresh from the four-year police academy, to the village of Deh Sheikh. His assignment was to track down one of the five young people Qasim suspected of acting as spies for the Taliban. We set out in a convoy of two Ford Rangers, along the same route Khalil had taken a few days before, and parked near the blackened tract of sand where he died. Three local police officers joined us for the remaining half-mile trek to the mud home where Syed Mahboob, 19, lived with his parents. Zulfaqar announced that we would enter the village with caution.

We set off on foot down a dirt path, racing through patches of slender trees, then crouching through the openings to stay out of sight. We crossed a river on a meager bridge of logs and branches, the officers’ assault rifles dangling over the water. The men appeared to know every field, every path and road, every irrigation canal. The night before, in complete darkness, Qasim’s officers had taken me on a two-hour night patrol through Zaqumkhil, a village a few miles west of their headquarters. They navigated the trails without night vision or flashlights, walking in a single-file line through a depthless black into hostile areas where a few months earlier they had been in open firefights.

Now I followed Zulfaqar into the front yard of a mud house, the home of Syed Mahboob. No one was home, so we waited. After 10 minutes, an old man ambled into the compound.

“Where is Syed Mahboob?” Zulfaqar asked.

The man was his father. He said Mahboob was at college, in Pul-i-Alam.

Zulfaqar had more questions. What about the day Hajji Khalil was murdered? Where was he that day?

The old man wrinkled his face, shifted his weight between feet and took a guess. “He must have been at school then, too,” he said.

Mahboob was little more than a name to the police, picked up from sources within the insurgency, all of whom had their own competing agendas. Zulfaqar couldn’t say for sure that Mahboob was really a student, and he had no clear theory about why Mahboob might want to help the Taliban. The men called Qasim to ask if they should arrest the father. “No,” he said. “He will bring his son to us.”

We retraced our steps back to the trucks. It had been a fruitless trip, but Qasim radioed the officers with better news: A separate detachment of officers had arrested the other four suspects. Zulfaqar would interview them back at headquarters.

When we returned, the suspects were seated on a wooden bench outside. The youngest was 15, the oldest 23. Zulfaqar ushered them one by one into a closet-size office, into which he had somehow squeezed a filing cabinet, a small desk and three rusted chairs. The first of the four, an 18-year-old with short black hair, recounted his activities on the day of Khalil’s death while Zulfaqar scribbled notes onto a single sheet of white paper, repeating the words aloud as he wrote: I was at home when the shooting began at noon. I climbed onto the roof and saw black smoke curling into the sky. Later I left the house to get a snack from the store. Two local police officers were there. They said this is the work of the people of Deh Sheikh. As he talked, the young suspect tucked his socked foot beneath his thigh.
Continue reading the main story

It was the same with the next two suspects. No one admitted a thing. Zulfaqar’s technique appeared unpracticed. The police academy enrolls roughly 600 students a year; many seem to be accepted simply because they can read, placing them in the top tier of the Afghan National Police. The army had a vast deployment of fellow soldiers from around the world to train them in the best practices of their profession. The police had very little in comparison, so they, too, learned from the coalition forces, instruction that prepared them better for firefights than for detective work. For Zulfaqar, “What else?” was a favored demand, along with “Did anyone tell you who did it?” More than once he looked over at me, seated along the wall of his office, and asked whether I had any questions for the suspects. I said I didn’t.

A knock on the door interrupted the third interview. The old man from Deh Sheikh entered with a red-faced teenager dressed in black. It was Syed Mahboob. Zulfaqar dismissed the suspect seated in his office and told Mahboob to sit.

He asked Mahboob for his national identification card, which the young man did not have. Well, what about a student ID? the detective asked. Mahboob did not have that either.

Zulfaqar slapped his desk. What kind of a person would come to the police station with no identification?

After a long pause, Zulfaqar moved on. Let’s talk about Jan. 4: What time did you get out of bed? Whom did you speak to on the phone? Whom did you meet later in the day?

Mahboob looked up. “I was in Pul-i-Alam for an exam that day,” he said. “I missed the entire incident. I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you anything about it.”

Zulfaqar glared at him.

“Give me your thumb,” he said finally, pulling Mahboob to his desk to fingerprint his statement, convinced he was lying. “I know who you are, and you are not a student.” Watching Zulfaqar’s bombast and the young man’s befuddled reaction, it was difficult to believe that Mahboob had anything to do with the attack.

That night, Zulfaqar organized his evidence and stamped his statements. The next morning he would send all five suspects, including Mahboob, to Pul-i-Alam for processing.
Qasim checking in with the local police force in Shah Aghasi. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Qasim preferred to focus on community problems. Amid all this activity, he had scheduled a large meeting immediately north of the district headquarters, in the Sang-i-Mamar Desert, to settle a land dispute. The police drove 30 of us — Qasim, the district governor, the plaintiffs, several other local officials and a delegate from the Ministry of Agriculture in Kabul — in a convoy to the disputed area, an undifferentiated dirt field near a dry concrete canal. More than a dozen police officers arranged themselves on the banks of two hills facing north, establishing a security perimeter. The land, brown and wide open, stretched to a line of mountains on the horizon.

The argument was fundamental. “This is the land under my control,” Syed, in a leather coat and white cap, said to the Kabul delegate. “No, it’s not,” said Shirin, who had crept up from behind to listen. The delegate from the Ministry of Agriculture, Syed Alam, silenced them.
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“Don’t use the word ‘control,’ ” he said, unfurling a roll of maps stuffed into a tube. Control signified ownership, and ownership was the subject of the dispute. “Right now, we’re trying to determine whom it belongs to.”

Two aides to Alam held the edges of the maps open. Each parcel of land was delineated with a tidy, hand-drawn stroke from the cartographer. The two landowners agreed about who owned all the parcels but one, a plot over a hill to the east. To orient themselves, the group decided to hike to the disputed parcel. Qasim, wearing his winter police uniform of gray fleece, scurried behind the taller members of the party.

The group climbed the hill to the east for a better view of the terrain. Bits of shale shifted beneath their feet as they scrambled up. Now the entire district lay before us, interlocking tracts of farmland, corrugated tin bazaars, mud homes and leafless forests.

“You two are brothers who are trying to play a trick on me,” Qasim said to them. He placed one arm around the shoulders of Shirin, another around the shoulders of Syed. “One of you says, ‘Oh, the land belongs to me.’ The other says, ‘No, it is mine.’ What you’re really trying to do is increase your holdings, knowing neither of you own this little piece of extra land. But I’m not that stupid. I called Kabul for help!”
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F. Van Antwerp
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Its not clear if Mr. Ahmed came across details of the existence of local community councils in Afghanistan, but an Afghan Government program...
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A well written, but disturbing article, which raises the question of what was the point of the lives lost, the lives damaged, and the...
donald surr
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And our leaders still entertain the illusion that WE can transform Afghan society into something that resembles Norman Rockwell's vision of...

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Shirin and Syed laughed. We continued our hike, sliding down the opposite side of the hill. Alam paused to review one of the maps. The edge of the disputed parcel was marked by a concrete chute built to funnel water from a natural spring. Nearby, four flags were buried in the ground, the graves of Taliban fighters killed by the police over the summer, Qasim said.

Alam produced a ledger with the names of the landowners. He slid his finger along the entries until he found the parcel. Mir, a forebear of Syed, owned the land, he announced. But he continued reading and discovered a footnote, stating that the family of Ghulam, the grandfather of Shirin, also held a claim on the land.

Alam sighed, handed the ledger to an aide and addressed the two men. There would be no resolution today. He warned the pair not to use or sell the land until the government made a decision. It would take up to a year to determine the true owner of the property. This appeared to be sufficient to hold the peace. “Eight years have passed since this dispute began,” Syed said. “I can wait another year.”

The next morning, news came: The army had arrived. A small company of 40 soldiers from the Fourth Brigade of the 203rd Corps had assumed control of a base in Baraki Rajan, a cluster of villages just a short drive from Qasim’s headquarters. As soon as Qasim heard, he headed out to his Ford Ranger to make the trip over. Because he outranked the army captain, he could have insisted that the meeting happen at his headquarters, Qasim explained. This journey was a gesture of good will. Fifteen minutes later, a guard directed us to a concrete building, where the soldiers were settling in. Captain Zabiullah, round-faced and stocky, greeted us warmly. He apologized for not visiting Qasim first. It was nothing, Qasim said, and shook his hand.
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Like Qasim, Zabiullah had also decided to make his bedroom the center of activity. The two sat side by side on the captain’s ancient steel-spring cot, exchanging war stories. Qasim claimed to have once fired 36 mortars in less than 30 minutes. Zabiullah boasted that the Taliban could not fight his forces for 20 minutes.

“Would you believe I have not spent more than four days at my house in four months?” Qasim asked.

The captain laughed. It was clear that Qasim was working the young captain, angling. He needed the army to send troops when the police came under fire.

He also wanted help for the uprisers in Chiltan. The Fourth Brigade was responsible for security in this province and another near Kabul, but it seemed picky about when and where it helped. The police complain, almost constantly, that the army — with its many airplanes, helicopters and sophisticated armored vehicles — sits in large, fortified bases while the police and the uprisers do all of the fighting and dying. (It didn’t help that a relatively inexperienced police officer earned $210 a week, while an equivalent soldier earns up to $280.) The uprisers wanted the soldiers’ help building fortifications and also some heavier weapons, maybe some .50-caliber mounted guns or even an armored vehicle. Qasim wanted to deliver them, but he needed a better approach. Once again deploying flattery, he told the captain that his officers would be very happy to help the soldiers with anything they needed.
A police raid at a compound in Deh Sheikh, where officers were looking for a villager suspected of being involved in the death of Hajji Khalil, a wealthy businessman who organized a militia to fight the Taliban. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

“Listen, one of your men is worth 10 of our people, because you are the ones being targeted,” Zabiullah said.

Qasim bowed his head an inch or two, accepting the counter-­compliment. He then tried a more direct approach: Was it true what he had heard? Were the army special forces coming here specifically to aid the uprisers in Chiltan? It was unclear to me whether Qasim had actually heard this or was simply improvising.

Zabiullah said nothing.

“The morale there is very low,” Qasim said. “We are going there now to check on them.”

This was an invitation for the captain to join him. The entreaty sat between the men for a full 30 seconds, understood yet unexpressed.

“Any time you need, call me,” the captain finally said. “We will be there in minutes.”

Qasim gave the captain a hug before departing for Chiltan, alone.

The following evening, Qasim made good on his promise to take more men and a Humvee to the uprisers — but they were police officers, not soldiers, and it was a police Humvee. On the edge of the Chiltan bazaar, Farhad waved our convoy past, his machine gun slung over his right shoulder. The corrugated gates of a compound swung open, and the convoy sped through. Here was the home of Hajji Khalil, painted foam green, with yellow windowsills. To its west and south was open land that ran into Taliban country. It was the literal front line in the district: Beyond the porch, as far as the eye could see, the government had no control.

A crowd was gathered by the home’s entrance, an assembly of men and boys in various states of disarray. Some wore uniforms, but others did not. They clutched their ancient assault rifles like crutches. A few of them smoked hashish on the raised porch, their faces little more than red eyes and yellowed teeth. This was the uprising in Chiltan.
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Ainuddin, a 17-year-old rookie we met five days earlier, was among the police officers selected to join the uprisers. As first jobs go, his had to rank among the worst. He smiled at me, ignoring the hash scent wafting through the air, and entered the house before I could ask him what he thought of the assignment. An upriser, wearing soiled tan pants pulled up to his chest, followed us as we conducted interviews, asking questions of his own with a cigarette pursed between his lips. Where were we from? Whom did we work for? Why were we there? We ignored him. The vibe was not hostile, but neither was it welcoming. Our comfort was beside the point, though. Qasim and the others used the uprisers because they would fight the Taliban, adopting the same stance the Americans did when they ran the war.

The green Humvee sat near the gate, a symbol of Qasim’s good will. It would probably never amount to more than that. The vehicles require so much fuel and so much maintenance that entire Afghan army battalions struggle to keep them on the road. The uprisers, who slept in a secondhand tent on their mountain outpost and borrowed bullets from Qasim, would be fortunate to get more than a week of use out of theirs. Farhad received the gift without a word. The sun receded farther behind the mountains, etching them in pink. It would be dark soon. Qasim shook hands with a few of the uprisers and gave Farhad an unreciprocated hug. His men were eager to leave. The older men among the uprisers followed the police out, waving goodbye in a cloud of dust kicked up by the departing trucks.
A few dozen groups, referred to as ‘‘uprisers,’’ have joined the government in battling the Taliban. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Policing in Afghanistan is unpredictable. In Pul-i-Alam, Syed Mahboob was arrested, questioned, then released by the same provincial police commander, Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai, who first recommended our trip to Baraki Barak. Ishaqzai explained the problem to me as I sat on a sagging, overstuffed sofa in his large fluorescent-lit office at his provincial headquarters. There simply was not enough evidence against Mahboob to file charges, so they had to let him go.

A month after our last visit to Ishaqzai’s office, Taliban suicide bombers stormed the compound. Ishaqzai was away, but the attack killed more than 20 of his men, many of whom were eating lunch in the cafeteria, the most devastating single assault on the police in more than a year. Soon afterward, Qasim stopped answering his phone. I called Ishaqzai. What happened? He said officials from the Interior Ministry in Kabul had arrested Qasim. They suspected that he was involved in the assault.

The ministry, Ishaqzai explained, had accused three of Qasim’s closest lieutenants of using Qasim’s car to drive the suicide attackers through the initial police checkpoints around the compound. In another startling development, Farhad had also accused Qasim of colluding in the assassination of his brother. A group of officers from Kabul and Pul-i-Alam arrested Qasim and the three lieutenants in Baraki Barak on Feb. 23, the day Qasim stopped answering my calls.
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He was in Pul-i-Alam now, under the supervision of the police and the National Directorate of Security. The prosecutor had not filed charges, but Ishaqzai told me that in Qasim’s bedroom, the police had found a kind of wiring that was often used to make improvised explosive devices and a tracking device used by insurgents that tells them when a car is approaching.

The thought that Qasim could be guilty of these crimes was jarring, to say the least. He had hosted us in his district, where we slept, ate and traveled with him and his men into the unmapped depths of the district for a full week. It was hard to imagine why, if Qasim was working with the insurgents, he had not tried to kidnap me and Tyler Hicks and sell us to the Taliban. He could have easily staged an incident with the insurgents. Hicks and I asked him shortly after we arrived whether we could spend the night in a remote outpost with the local police; arranging a kidnapping there would have been easy. Qasim refused to let us, though. He said it was too dangerous. The insurgents had even kidnapped his son, back when he was the head of counternarcotics in the district.

And yet truth in Afghanistan, where allegiances shift on a daily basis, is never easy to pin down. Could Qasim have helped killed Khalil? Could he have facilitated the murder of more than 20 of his fellow officers in Pul-i-Alam? Just as his true motivations were unknowable, so, too, were the motivations of those who accused him. Arrests for political reasons occurred all the time. The police and the intelligence service were interrogating him now, and they could just as easily release him as charge him with murder. As Mahboob’s father told me, the police had also arrested Mahboob again, just 10 days after they released him, and on the same charges.

Ishaqzai said he couldn’t tell me much else. He wasn’t in charge of the investigation, but he doubted that Qasim was involved in Khalil’s death. He was less certain about whether Qasim could have helped the insurgents attack the Pul-i-Alam headquarters. Such things happen, Ishaqzai said. He had known Qasim well, considered him his finest police chief. But, he reminded me, “people can change their minds in minutes.” Ishaqzai had already replaced Qasim with a younger chief from a neighboring district, he told me before we hung up.

I wanted to hear someone defend Qasim, or reflect the camaraderie and loyalty I thought I saw when I was there. I called Sabir Khan, his good friend and deputy, his most esteemed colleague. Khan told me that the men in Baraki Barak didn’t know how to feel. Even he wondered whether Qasim was involved in the Pul-i-Alam attack. You never know, he said. “I cannot trust him now.”

Azam Ahmed is the Kabul bureau chief for The New York Times.
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« Reply #1457 on: March 22, 2015, 10:37:21 AM »

This 5 min video, provides worthwhile clarity on Af-Pak relations
« Last Edit: March 22, 2015, 11:04:39 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #1458 on: April 05, 2015, 03:19:23 PM »

Daesh is way too cool for the jihadis!...YA

Afghan Taliban release Mullah Omar biography amid growing frustration within ranks

By Tahir Khan

Published: April 5, 2015

The Afghan Taliban released on Sunday a biography of their reclusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

In hiding for 13 years, the Afghan Taliban supremo disappeared after US airstrikes dislodged the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001.

The biography comes amid rising speculation over the elusive leader’s whereabouts and whether he is still alive and able to lead the militant group. Further, there have been reports of  growing frustration within Taliban ranks over the lack of leadership by Omar, particularly in light of Islamic State’s growing popularity.

The Afghan Taliban chief who has not been seen in public for more than a decade was last heard in 2007 – eight years ago.

However, if there were any doubts regarding his role in the Afghan Taliban, the biography cleared them.

“Mullah Mohammad Omar (Mujahid) is still the leader in the present hierarchy of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the biography asserts.

“His deputy, the leading council, judiciary, nine executive commissions and three other administration organs are active under his leadership which form the warp and woof of the present setup of the Islamic Emirate,” it added.

The Afghan Taliban chief’s biography was released on April 4, 2015 — the 19th anniversary of the organisation’s rule. Around 1,500 Taliban scholars who declared Mullah Omar as “Amir-ul-Momineen” (Leader of pious people) were present at the gathering.

“Under present conditions of regularly being chased by the enemy, no major change and disruption has been observed in the routine works of Mullah Mohammad Omar (Mujahid) in following and organising the Jihadi activities as the leader of the Islamic Emirate,” the biography said.

The biography which was issued in English, Urdu, Pashto and Dari further claimed, “He (Omar) keenly follows and inspects the Jihadi activities against the infidel and brutal foreign invaders.”

“In organising and reshuffling the Jihadi and military issues, he delivers his orders in a specific way to Jihadi commanders.”

Further elaborating on how the elusive leader runs the organisation, the biography added, “He regularly follows Jihadi publications and other international media resources to judge his victories and likewise other issues against the foreign invaders. In this way, he remains in touch with the day to day happenings of his country as well as the outside world. These activities form his basic daily life in the present circumstances.”

Mullah Omar’s whereabouts are unknown though Afghan intelligence officials have on a number of occasions claimed Omar is hiding in Karachi. Meanwhile, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has long claimed the Taliban supremo has been hiding in Quetta. However, the claim has been denied by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Afghan Taliban officials.

Though, the Taliban initially routinely issued Omar’s traditional “Eid” messages, his voice was last heard eight years ago.

His last audio message in 2007 addressed his commanders, ordering them to expel Taliban commander Mansoor Dadullah for killing Taliban men on suspicion of them spying on his brother Mullah Dadullah.

The feared commander Mullah Dadullah was killed by foreign and Afghan forces in southern Afghanistan in 2007.

Earlier it was reported that a growing number of militant commanders in Afghanistan and Pakistan were beginning to look towards Islamic State (IS) for inspiration, frustrated by Mullah Omar’s lack of leadership.

In Afghanistan, one militant commander said many have turned to IS. “Look, we have been fighting for years but we don’t have an inch of land in our possession in Afghanistan,” said the senior commander, who spoke from the province of Kunar.

“We have serious doubts about whether he (Omar) is alive at all … Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is visible and is leading his people,” the commander said, referring to the IS leader.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) which considered Mullah Omar as their “Ameer” switched loyalties to the Islamic State of Dai’sh a few days ago. The leader of the group in a video said Mullah Omar has not been seen in years and that it is declaring allegiance to Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi.

« Last Edit: April 05, 2015, 03:33:00 PM by ya » Logged
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« Reply #1459 on: April 07, 2015, 09:29:32 AM »

Did we say business? Pakistan wants to buy 15 AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters and 1,000 Hellfire II missiles from the U.S. in a deal that would be worth about $952 million if the U.S. Congress signs off on it. The sale would up Pakistan's precision firepower in places like the "North Waziristan Agency, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and other remote and mountainous areas in all-weather, day-and-night environments" the Department of Defense wrote on April 6. The deal would also make some money for U.S. defense contractors Textron, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.
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« Reply #1460 on: April 09, 2015, 11:17:04 PM »

If you think the police are heavily militarized in the US, the pakis claim that strafing their populace in the frontier regions with F-16's is not very effective and they need helicopters and missiles. However, the beggars cant afford anything, one way or the other its US aid being recycled back to US arms merchants.
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« Reply #1461 on: April 12, 2015, 09:24:19 PM »

Saudis want Pak participation in Yemen war.....chickens come home to roost.
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« Reply #1462 on: April 20, 2015, 05:43:18 PM »

Husain Haqqani
April 19, 2015 5:51 p.m. ET

The Obama administration’s decision this month to sell almost $1 billion in U.S.-made attack helicopters, missiles and other equipment to Pakistan will fuel conflict in South Asia without fulfilling the objective of helping the country fight Islamist extremists. Pakistan’s failure to tackle its jihadist challenge is not the result of a lack of arms but reflects an absence of will. Unless Pakistan changes its worldview, American weapons will end up being used to fight or menace India and perceived domestic enemies instead of being deployed against jihadists.

Competition with India remains the overriding consideration in Pakistan’s foreign and domestic policies. By aiding Pakistan over the years—some $40 billion since 1950, according to the Congressional Research Service—the U.S. has fed Pakistan’s delusion of being India’s regional military equal. Seeking security against a much larger neighbor is a rational objective but seeking parity with it on a constant basis is not.
The AH-1Z Viper. ENLARGE
The AH-1Z Viper. Photo: Getty Images

Instead of selling more military equipment to Pakistan, U.S. officials should convince Pakistan that its ambitions of rivaling India are akin to Belgium trying to rival France or Germany. India’s population is six times as large as Pakistan’s while India’s economy is 10 times bigger, and India’s $2 trillion economy has managed consistent growth whereas Pakistan’s $245 billion economy has grown sporadically and is undermined by jihadist terrorism and domestic political chaos. Pakistan also continues to depend on Islamist ideology—through its school curricula, propaganda and Islamic legislation—to maintain internal nationalist cohesion, which inevitably encourages extremism and religious intolerance.

Clearly, with the latest military package, the Obama administration expects to continue the same policies adopted by several of its predecessors—and somehow get different results. It’s a mystery why the president suddenly trusts Pakistan’s military—after mistrusting it at the time of the Navy SEAL operation in May 2011 that found and killed Osama bin Laden living safely until then in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.

One explanation is that selling helicopters and missiles is easier than thinking of alternative strategies to compel an errant ally to change its behavior. This is a pattern in U.S.-Pakistan relations going back to the 1950s. Between 1950 and 1969, the U.S. gave $4.5 billion in aid to Pakistan partly in the hope of using Pakistani troops in anticommunist wars, according to declassified U.S. government documents. Pakistan did not contribute a single soldier for the wars in Korea or Vietnam but went to war with India over the disputed border state of Kashmir instead in 1965.

During the 1980s, Pakistan served as the staging ground for the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and received another $4.5 billion in aid, as reported by the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations to Congress. Pakistan diverted U.S. assistance again toward its obsessive rivalry with India, and trained insurgents to fight in the Indian part of Kashmir as well as in India’s Punjab state. It also violated promises to the U.S. and its own public statements not to acquire nuclear weapons, which it first tested openly in 1998—arguing that it could not afford to remain nonnuclear while India’s nuclear program surged ahead.

Since the 1990s, Pakistan has supported various jihadist groups, including the Afghan Taliban. After 9/11, the country’s military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, promised to end support for the Islamic radicals. Based on that promise, Pakistan received $15.1 billion in civil and military aid from the U.S. until 2009. In February, Gen. Musharraf admitted in an interview with the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper that he continued to support the Afghan Taliban even after 9/11 because of concerns over close relations between Afghanistan and India. Thus the U.S. was effectively arming a country that was, in turn, arming insurgents fighting and killing American troops in Afghanistan.

After the Dec. 16, 2014, attack on a Peshawar school, where the Taliban massacred 160 people, including many schoolchildren, Pakistan claimed it had changed its policy toward terrorist groups and would no longer distinguish between “good” and “bad” Taliban. The Pakistani military has since sped up military action against terrorist groups responsible for mayhem inside Pakistan. But the destruction, demobilization, disarmament or dismantling of Afghan Taliban and other radical groups is clearly not on the Pakistani state’s agenda. There has been no move against Kashmir-oriented jihadist groups.

Given Pakistan’s history, it is likely that the 15 AH-1Z Viper helicopters and 1,000 Hellfire missiles—as well as communications and training equipment being offered to it—will be used against secular insurgents in southwest Baluchistan province, bordering Iran, and along the disputed border in Kashmir rather than against the jihadists in the northwest bordering Afghanistan.

If the Obama administration believes Pakistan’s military has really changed its priorities, it should consider leasing helicopters to Pakistan and verify where they are deployed before going through with outright sales.

With nuclear weapons, Pakistan no longer has any reason to feel insecure about being overrun by a larger Indian conventional force. For the U.S. to continue supplying a Pakistani military that is much larger than the country can afford will only invigorate Pakistani militancy and militarism at the expense of its 200 million people, one-third of whom continue to live at less than a dollar a day per household.

Mr. Haqqani, the director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., was Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., 2008-11.
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« Reply #1463 on: April 20, 2015, 09:16:04 PM »

Hussein Haqqani the author of the above piece is one of the few sane pakis (I know its an oxymoron).  He would not last a day, if he went back to Pak.
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« Reply #1464 on: May 23, 2015, 09:19:41 AM »

While this is only wishful thinking at present....YA

ISIS claims it could buy its first nuclear weapon from Pakistan within 12 months

Heather Saul,The Independent | May 23, 2015, 01.08 PM IST

The finances of the ISIS have been estimated by some to be in the $2billion area, though it is impossible to verify how much money it actually has access to.

LONDON: ISIS has used the latest issue of its propaganda magazine Dabiq to suggest the group is expanding so rapidly it could buy its first nuclear weapon within a year.

The hyperbolic article, which the group attributes to the British hostage John Cantlie, claims ISIS has transcended its roots as "the most explosive Islamic 'group' in the modern world" to evolve into "the most explosive Islamic movement the modern world has ever seen" in less than twelve months.
Photojournalist Cantlie is regularly used in the terror group's propaganda and has appeared in a number of videos, including a YouTube series called "Lend Me Your Ears". He has been held a hostage by ISIS for more than two years.

 The piece, entitled "The Perfect Storm", describes militant Islamist groups such as Boko Haram, which recently pledged allegiance to ISIS, uniting across the Middle East, Africa and Asia to create one global movement.

 The article claims this alignment of groups has happened at the same time as ISIS militants have seized "tanks, rocket launchers, missile systems, anti-aircraft systems," from the US and Iran before turning to the subject of more extreme weapons the group is not in possession of — such as nuclear weapons.

 "Let me throw a hypothetical operation onto the table," the article continues. "The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilayah in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region."

 It admits that such a scenario is "far-fetched" but warns: "It's the sum of all fears for Western intelligence agencies and it's infinitely more possible today than it was just one year ago.

 "And if not a nuke, what about a few thousand tons of ammonium nitrate explosive? That's easy enough to make."

 An attack launched by ISIS against America would ridicule "the attacks of the past".

 "They'll [ISIS] be looking to do something big, something that would make any past operation look like a squirrel shoot, and the more groups that pledge allegiance the more possible it becomes to pull off something truly epic.

 "Remember, all of this has happened in less than a year. How more dangerous will be the lines of communication and supply a year on from today?"

 The capacity of ISIS to acquire such a device is certainly beyond the group at the moment.

 But ISIS is indeed a well funded group having secured a number of oilfields in Syria and Iraq. The group also sells artefacts looted from historic areas seized during its insurgency, sometimes for six figure sums, as well as imposing taxes on civilians trapped in its self-declared caliphate and other methods of extortion.

 The finances of the group have been estimated by some to be in the $2billion area, though it is impossible to verify how much money it actually has access to.

 The threats come against a mixed backdrop of successes and losses in both countries; the group has been driven out of Tikrit in Iraq but has overrun Ramaldi and the Syrian ancient city of Palmyra.

 A recent call to arms from its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also appeared to suggest it may be overstretched in some areas, with his speech urging supporters from across the world to travel to its territories in the Middle East.

 In September last year, the home secretary, Theresa May, warned that the militant group could become the world's first "truly terrorist state".

 "We will see the risk, often prophesied but thank God not yet fulfilled, that with the capability of a state behind them, the terrorists will acquire chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons to attack us," she said.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2015, 10:25:51 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #1465 on: May 24, 2015, 05:15:41 PM »

Margherita Stancati
May 24, 2015 12:56 p.m. ET

KABUL—Afghanistan’s most prominent peace envoy held secret talks with former Taliban officials in China last week, accelerating regional efforts to bring the insurgency to the negotiating table, according to individuals briefed on the matter by the warring parties.

The two-day meeting, which took place in the northwestern Chinese city of Urumqi, was aimed at discussing preconditions for a possible peace process, those people said.

“These were talks about talks,” one diplomat said.

The meeting was significant for another reason: It was facilitated by Pakistan’s intelligence agency in an apparent show of goodwill aimed at a negotiated solution to the insurgency.

People familiar with the meeting said Chinese officials and representatives of Pakistan’s spy agency—the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI—also attended the talks on May 19 and 20 in Urumqi, the capital of China’s western Xinjiang region. Chinese and Pakistani officials weren’t immediately reachable for comment.

Members of Afghanistan’s peace-negotiating body frequently hold informal meetings with the Taliban, but such high-level interactions are unusual.

The meetings come after a monthslong diplomatic outreach led by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to reset ties with Pakistan after years of frosty relations in a bid to revive talks aimed at ending Afghanistan’s 13-year war.

Pakistan’s support is widely seen as critical for a peace process to work. Much of the Taliban leadership has been based in Pakistan since 2001, and its fighters have used the lawless border areas between the two countries as an operational base.

Afghan and Western officials have long accused Pakistan of effectively controlling the Taliban insurgency, an allegation Islamabad has repeatedly denied even as it acknowledges it has some influence over the movement.

The location of the meeting is also key. In recent months, China has moved closer to the role of mediator in the Afghan conflict, interacting more with the Kabul government and the Taliban insurgency to discuss the possibility of starting peace talks. The Urumqi meeting signals the Chinese diplomatic outreach may be gaining traction.

Past efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table have failed. In June 2013, the Taliban opened a political office in the Gulf emirate of Qatar as part of a U.S.-backed effort to start formal talks. That effort collapsed after the Taliban opened an office with the trappings of a government-in-exile, infuriating then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The Afghan delegation in China was led by Mohammad Masoom Stanikzai, who until last week was the most prominent member of the High Peace Council, the country’s peace-negotiating body. Mr. Stanikzai was nominated on Thursday as minister of defense, a position that needs parliamentary approval. He wasn’t immediately available to comment on the meeting in China.

Mohammad Asem, a former lawmaker and associate of Mr. Ghani’s coalition partner, Abdullah Abdullah, also participated in the Urumqi meeting.

The three former senior Taliban officials who attended—Mullah Abdul Jalil, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani and Mullah Abdul Razaq— are based in Pakistan and they are close to the Taliban’s Quetta-based leadership council.

Maulvi Qalamuddin, a former top Taliban official, said the meeting represented a very-high level effort to discuss peace.

“These people are more important than those in Qatar,” said Mr. Qalamuddin, who is now a member of the High Peace Council. “These talks are held secretly, and only a few people know about it.”

It is far from clear, however, whether the talks in Urumqi could lead to formal negotiations. In an official communication on Sunday evening, the Taliban denied the meeting took place. But the group frequently makes public denials about peace overtures, while privately confirming outreach.

People familiar with the movement said the three Taliban who attended the China talks have strong ties to Pakistan’s spy agency, and that they are not authorized to speak on behalf on the insurgency about reconciliation.

“They are all very close to the ISI and they have no mandate from the leadership to talk about peace,” said a person briefed on the meeting.

The Taliban have previously said that only the members of the group’s Qatar-based political commission are allowed to participate in peace-related efforts. Earlier this month, members of the commission held informal discussions with Afghan officials and civic activists in Qatar, an effort that participants said could eventually pave the way to a formal peace process.

A peace deal is still distant, however. The Taliban are pressing a countrywide offensive that is causing high casualties on both sides, and the fighting is unlikely to end soon. The insurgency still insists that all foreign troops should leave Afghanistan as a precondition for negotiations to begin.

The Urumqi meeting took place days after the ISI signed an agreement aimed at improving intelligence cooperation with Afghanistan’s spy agency, the National Directorate of Security.

But Pakistan—and its intelligence apparatus in particular—is viewed with deep mistrust by Afghans.

News of the deal provoked a dramatic backlash in Afghanistan, dividing the country’s political leadership and leading to accusations the Kabul government had sold out Afghanistan’s national interest to an enemy.

—Nathan Hodge contributed to this article.
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« Reply #1466 on: July 01, 2015, 08:33:29 PM »


After nearly 15 years of war, the Taliban are far from exhausted in their struggle for power. Against old enemies and new threats, the Taliban continue to maneuver for a better position in Afghanistan's conflict. While the Taliban are not capable of securing an outright victory against the Afghan government, the group is also unlikely to be sidelined, either by coalition efforts or by the entrance of a new rival for territory and influence: the Islamic State.

Since the start of their spring offensive earlier this year, the Taliban have focused on the country's northern provinces, a marked departure from their previous emphasis on their traditional strongholds in the south and east. These efforts have been fruitful: After seizing two key districts adjacent to the vital northern crossroads city of Kunduz over the past month, the Taliban are now positioned less than 7 kilometers (approximately 4 miles) from the city itself.

With Afghan military reinforcements from Kabul heading toward Kunduz, it is possible the Taliban may yet be pushed back. Still, the group's gains over the spring and summer thus far have preserved its role as the primary opposition faction in the Afghan conflict, even as concerns about the Islamic State's emergence in the region are growing.
The Islamic State's Afghan Faction

In the months following the January debut of the Islamic State's Khorasan wing, which operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the organization has steadily increased its presence in Afghanistan. While the Islamic State still has only small groups of fighters spread across eastern Afghanistan, it has been at least partially successful in attracting new recruits, particularly from the ranks of disillusioned former Taliban. The Islamic State's presence is cause for alarm for the Taliban. They see the group as a potentially powerful rival that espouses a different ideology and vision for Afghanistan.

For the most part, clashes between the Islamic State and the Taliban have been relatively rare. The Islamic State has tried to keep a low profile while it seeks out new recruits, and the Taliban have been concentrating on launching attacks against the U.S.-backed Afghan government. But in the past few weeks the Taliban have begun cracking down on the Islamic State. For example, a large clash on May 24 between the two groups in Farah province left 13 Islamic State fighters and nine Taliban dead, and the Islamic State has vowed to seek revenge for the attack. With the Islamic State looking to cement its presence in the region and the Taliban moving to counter the group, such clashes are likely to continue in the months ahead.

Though the emergence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan has alarmed the Taliban, it has also created an opportunity to raise the Taliban's status. In response to neighboring and foreign powers' reaction against the Islamic State, the Taliban have used their position — as a group that all players are willing to negotiate with — to establish their role as the primary bulwark against the Islamic State.

Perhaps more important, the Taliban have been able to leverage the Islamic State's rise to gain greater support from Iran. According to a June 11 report by the Wall Street Journal, Iran has increased its support for the Taliban. The U.S. military has even accused Tehran of providing aid to the Taliban in their war against the United States in Afghanistan. Iran's latest uptick in support, which included the transfer of mortars, small arms and cash, appears to correspond with the Islamic State's growing presence in the country and its success in poaching disillusioned Taliban fighters, in part by offering better salaries.

It is possible that as part of their effort to counter the Islamic State's climb, the Taliban provided Pakistan (and by extension, the United States) with the coordinates of Mullah Abdul Rauf, a key Islamic State leader in Afghanistan. Abdul Rauf, formerly a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, reportedly broke with the Taliban to join the Islamic State as its deputy governor in Khorasan. A few weeks later, he was killed in a drone strike, though the Afghan National Directorate of Security claims he died during an operation by the Afghan army's special operations forces. Either way, the possibility that the Taliban funneled his whereabouts to the authorities conducting the operation cannot be ignored.

A Manageable Threat

The Afghan Taliban are aware that there is only so much support they can get from neighboring and foreign powers involved in the country's conflict. They will likely continue to try to leverage the Islamic State threat to enhance their strategic position among these powers. As the Afghan government becomes increasingly alarmed about Islamic State aggression in the country as well, the Taliban could attempt to improve their negotiating position by portraying themselves as the more reasonable opposition force.

The Islamic State poses a substantial threat to the Taliban as they continue to wage war against Kabul. Of course, the Taliban have seen much darker days over the course of the 15-year conflict and, at least in the short to medium term, they will likely manage the Islamic State threat successfully. Ideological and tribal differences will continue to impede the Islamic State's expansion in Afghanistan, and the Taliban will use international attitudes against the group to boost their own military capabilities and bargaining power.
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