democracy in afghanistan

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episode 17

Voting-Card Envy

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While battling the formidable Taliban

The brave citizens of Pluckame set-up

a voting poll

in a shed owned by one of the elders

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Everyone in the village has a voting card

Even Ollie & his midget friends have voting cards

Goats & chickens have voting cards hung around their necks

Only Taliban lurking behind distant trees don’t have them

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From very far away the Taliban share a pair of binoculars

They see even a blind goat is going to vote

In the nationwide election for the next president

Everybody is going to make a difference but not the Taliban

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Their Al Qaeda leader peers thru the binoculars & grimaces

He says something rude about what he sees

A swift arrow made in the USA cracks thru one of the lens

And sticks out the back of his head

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As the Arab falls-over a voting card is suddenly revealed

To his “holy war” buddies

It is nailed on the tree beside which their leader has been sitting

They look around ~ all the trees have voting cards

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tyrannical taliban leaders get no votes

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taliban still working with al-qaida

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voa news
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by hasib danish alikoza & khalid mafton
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october 19, 2019
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WASHINGTON – A Taliban delegation reportedly met earlier this month with Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation. The alleged gathering came during an official Taliban visit to Islamabad to meet with Pakistan officials.

It was the first known contact between the U.S and Taliban insurgents since U.S. President Donald Trump canceled peace talks with the insurgents in September, citing increased violence in Afghanistan perpetrated by the militants in an attempt to gain more leverage at the negotiation table.

A senior Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the topic publicly, told Reuters “Pakistan played a big role in it to convince them [Taliban] how important it [the meeting] was for the peace process.”

The official said the meeting was a confidence-building measure between the two sides and did not include formal negotiations.

Although the U.S. State Department has declined to comment on whether Khalilzad met with the Taliban, a U.S. official told Reuters that Ambassador Khalilzad has met with Pakistan officials for consultations. The official said the peace talks have not resumed.

Taliban-al-Qaida links

The U.S. and Taliban have held nine rounds of direct talks in Qatar’s capital city, Doha, with both sides appearing closer than at any time in the past 18 years of war to striking a deal that would have brought an end to the conflict in Afghanistan, before President Trump called off the talks last month.

The deal revolved around four key issues negotiated by both sides for almost a year, including a guarantee by the Taliban insurgents that foreign militants would not be allowed to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to launch terror attacks outside the country, the complete withdrawal of U.S and NATO forces from Afghanistan, the beginning of an intra-Afghan dialogue, and a permanent cease-fire in the country.

Despite assurances by the insurgents that they would not allow foreign terror groups to operate from Afghanistan, the insurgent group seemingly is linked to the al-Qaida terror group on both operational and strategic levels.

Late last month, Afghan and U.S. forces jointly targeted a Taliban hideout in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, allegedly killing 23 militants, including six foreigners, and Asim Omar, chief of the al-Qaida terror group in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

“On the 23rd of September, there was a special forces operation conducted against an al-Qaida hideout in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province that resulted in the death of 23 militants, including six al-Qaida fighters,” Mohammad Yasin Khan, governor of southern Helmand province told VOA.

Rohullah Ahmadzai, a spokesperson for the Afghan Ministry of Defense told VOA the Taliban and al-Qaida continue to maintain ties at various levels. He said Umar shows their relation is still firm.

“Unlike their [Taliban] claims and promise, they are in close relation with Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and their leaders live together outside Afghanistan,” he added in a reference to neighboring Pakistan, which is accused of providing safe haven for militants, a charge denied by Islamabad.

The Taliban predictably denied that the operation in southern Helmand province killed their members and those of al-Qaida, insisting the victims were all civilians.

Supporting hardliners

Javid Ahmad, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, charges that al-Qaida continues to invest in Taliban, particularly the hardliners among the militant group.

“While Western targets have long been a priority for al-Qaida in Afghanistan, the group has largely focused the bulk of its attacks and resources on local operations, benefitting the Taliban hardliners,” Ahmad said. “The main problem is that some Taliban members can’t seem to distinguish their objectives from that of al-Qaida’s. To many, those objectives, long rooted in jihad, have remained the same.”

Ahmad notes the two sides rely on shared tactics, resources, expertise and manpower.
“There are also reports about a quiet rebranding of some of those hardliners into al-Qaida, which has solidified this co-dependent relationship. That’s why the Taliban promises to break ties with the group is a sheer fantasy for now,” Ahmad said.

Haqqani Network

Michael Semple, a professor at Queen’s University Belfast’s Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, says expecting the Taliban to give up on their relationship with their terrorist allies is “unrealistic.”

“In 25 years, the Taliban have not cut off links with al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. So, I have seen no indication that they are about to do so,” Semple said.

Semple added that the Haqqani Network, a Taliban allied U.S. designated terror group, has close working relationship with al-Qaida.

“The head of [the] Haqqani Network [Serajuddin Haqqani] is the deputy leader of the Taliban movement. The military might, which the Taliban deploys, depends partly on the Haqqani Network,” Semple said.

“We see no indication that the Taliban are ready to start, giving up their military and physical leadership … we are [a] long way away from peace agreement [between the U.S. and the Taliban] so to expect the Taliban to give up their relationship with their terrorist allies of two-and-half decades in the first step is probably unrealistic,” he added.

U.S. politics

Some analysts, like Matt Dearing, an assistant professor at the Washington-based National Defense University, assert that the Taliban should not be trusted and taken at their word for disavowing al-Qaida. Rather, they should be required to take “real action” before a deal is struck with them.

“Taliban and al-Qaida continue to coordinate operations, strategize, and praise each other on social media and their official communications. It’s not hard to see the links between these organizations if one pays attention,” Dearing said.

Dearing added that U.S. domestic politics should be separated from how its foreign policy is implemented.

“Unfortunately, the pressure to ‘make a deal’ with the Taliban before the summer of 2020 ended is based more on politics than policy. The Taliban know this, and their negotiators will tell the U.S. what it wants to hear,” Dearing said.

“It would be a disaster for U.S. foreign policy and Afghanistan’s future if a peace deal is struck with the Taliban purely for political optics,” he added.

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VOA’s Afghanistan service contributed to this report. Some of the information in this report came from Reuters.

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https://www.voanews.com/extremism-watch/afghan-taliban-continue-work-closely-al-qaida-afghanistan

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voice of america

https://www.voanews.com

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bucks for anti-drug effort in afghanistan transferred by trump to fund border wall

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by andrew taylor

associated press

october 17, 2019

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has quietly transferred more than $200 million from Pentagon counter-drug efforts toward building his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, drawing protests from Democrats who say he is again abusing his powers.

The move would shift $129 million to wall construction from anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan — the source of perhaps 90 percent of the world’s heroin — along with $90 million freed up by passage of a stopgap funding bill, top Democrats said in a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

The Defense Department “was faced with a simple choice: either additional funds be used for their intended purpose, to accelerate our military’s efforts to combat heroin production in Afghanistan; or divert these funds to pay for cost increases of a border wall project that does not have the support of the American people,” the Democrats wrote.

Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Chuck Schumer of New York and Patrick Leahy of Vermont took the lead, noting that the heroin trade is a major funding source for the Taliban and urging the Pentagon to “redouble its efforts to starve the Taliban of a vital funding source and reduce the scourge of heroin abuse in this country and abroad.”

Trump has shifted more than $6 billion from Pentagon accounts to pay for border fence construction, considerably more than lawmakers have provided through annual appropriations bills.

Wall funding has been a major source of conflict between Capitol Hill Democrats and Trump as they negotiate agency funding bills each year. For instance, Trump was forced to settle for just $1.4 billion in wall funding in talks this winter. He issued a controversial declaration of a national emergency shortly afterward that allowed him to shift almost three times as much money from military construction accounts to wall building.

A fight over the wall issue is tying up efforts to begin serious negotiations on wrapping up $1.4 trillion worth of agency appropriations by Thanksgiving.

Separately, the Senate is expected to vote Thursday to sustain Trump’s veto Tuesday of legislation to reject his emergency declaration.

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https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/10/16/democrats-protest-transferring-200m-in-pentagon-counterdrug-efforts-in-afghanistan-to-fund-border-wall

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khalilzad nation-hops on peace quest

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news report

afghanistan times

october 21, 2019

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KABUL: Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad and an interagency team, whose talks with Taliban halted despite nine round of discussions, is traveling to Belgium, France, and Russia and meet with the its leaderships on ending Afghanistan’s war.

In Brussels and Paris, ambassador Khalilzad will meet with likeminded partners including the EU, NATO, and UN to review how best to support accelerated efforts to reach peace in Afghanistan, the US State Department said on Monday.

In Moscow, ambassador Khalilzad will meet with Russian and Chinese counterparts to discuss shared interests in seeing the war in Afghanistan come to an end, the statement added.

Khalilzad, a veteran US diplomat who was born in Afghanistan, led a year of talks with the Taliban to seek a deal that would see the United States withdraw most of its troops and end its longest-ever war.

Trump said in September that he had invited Taliban leaders to meet but then withdrew the invitation and ended the talks after an attack killed a US soldier.

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http://www.afghanistantimes.af/khalilzad-travels-to-belgium-france-russia-for-afghan-peace-quest/

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u.s. has already pulled 2,000 troops

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monitoring desk

afghanistan times

october 21, 2019

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KABUL: The U.S. is already cutting down the number of troops it has stationed in Afghanistan, according to the commanding officer of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and US Forces – Afghanistan.

Army Gen. Austin Miller said Monday approximately 2,000 U.S. troops had left Afghanistan in the past year, the New York Times reports. That means there are approximately 12,000 U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan — a decrease from the roughly 14,000 that were previously stationed there.

The decrease is not connected to a formal withdrawal order, but instead is occurring as troops wrap up their tours in Afghanistan. Those troops leaving the country are then never replaced, U.S. and Afghan officials told the New York Times.

Officials did not disclose further information, however, the New York Times reports that an Afghan official approved the move.

Miller’s remarks come days after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters traveling with him to Afghanistan on Saturday that a withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be “conditions based.” However, he said the U.S. believes only 8,600 troops are necessary to keep up current counter-terrorism operations.

“With regard to a withdraw of forces, as we’ve always said, that it’ll be conditions based, but we’re confident that we can go down to 8,600 without affecting our [counter-terrorism] operations, if you will,” Esper said.

“​But all that — again, we think a political agreement is always the best way forward with regard to next steps in Afghanistan,” Esper added.

When pressed whether the troop reduction would happen with or without a peace deal with the Taliban, Esper said he didn’t “want to get ahead of the diplomats on that front.”

Peace negotiations with the Taliban crumbled in September after a secret meeting with Taliban and Afghan leaders at Camp David was canceled. President Donald Trump said that he called off the meeting after a U.S. soldier and 11 others were killed in a Taliban car bomb attack.

Before the peace negotiations were dismantled, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad shared a draft of the U.S.-Taliban agreement with Afghan leaders. The plan would have required the U.S. to withdraw approximately 5,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan 135 days after signing the agreement, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. has had troops in Afghanistan since Oct. 2001 because the Taliban provided a safe haven for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

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http://www.afghanistantimes.af/us-has-already-pulled-2000-troops-from-afghanistan-gen-miller-says

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