Is Afghanistan Going Down?

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Gwynne Dyer

Arab News

25 December 2015

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If the Taliban were not so busy fighting the rival Daesh (Islamic State, ISIS) terrorists who began operating in Afghanistan early this year, they might now be within reach of overthrowing the Afghan government that the Western powers left behind when they pulled out most of their troops last year. Even with that distraction, the Taliban are doing pretty well.  On Monday (before Chirstmas), a Taliban suicide-bomber on a motorcycle managed to kill six American soldiers who were patrolling the perimeter of Bagram air base near Kabul. On the same day, Taliban fighters took almost complete control of Sangin in Helmand province, a town that over 100 British troops died to defend in 2006-10.

As Major Richard Streatfield, a British officer who fought at Sangin, told the BBC: “I won’t deny, on a personal level, it does make you wonder — was it worth it? Because if the people we were trying to free Afghanistan from are now able to just take it back within two years, that shows that something went badly wrong at the operational and strategic level.”  It was probably a mistake to invade Afghanistan in the first place. Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda terrorists could have been dealt with without invading an entire country, and there was never any evidence that the Taliban government of the day knew about his 9/11 attacks on the United States in advance.

Having invaded the country, it was a mistake not to hand it over to a tough regime made up of warlords from the major ethnic groups and get out before the presence of over a hundred thousand foreign troops gave the Taliban a second wind. Trying to create a Western-style liberal democracy in Afghanistan was even more naive than the previous Soviet project to build a modern, secular, “socialist” one-party state in the country.  The 19th-century British army and the 20th-century Russian army could both have told them: it has always been easy to invade Afghanistan, but it has always been hard for foreign troops to stay there more than a couple of years. And having made those mistakes, it was another mistake to pull almost all the foreign troops out before the Afghan government’s army was up to holding the Taliban off. If, indeed, it can ever be brought up to that level.

The parlous state of the Afghan National Army and the sheer fecklessness of government was highlighted by last weekend’s desperate plea by Helmand’s deputy governor Mohammad Jan Rasulyar for supplies and reinforcements for the troops holding Sangin.  It’s not just that the army had neglected the plight of those soldiers. It’s the fact that Rasulyar had to resort to posting his plea on Facebook to get the government’s attention.  Part of the problem is rampant corruption. For example, up to a quarter of the army’s troops are “ghost soldiers” who only exist on paper, so that officers can draw their pay.  The worse problem is that President Ghani, a former senior official at the World Bank, only won last year’s election. Conflicts with the aggrieved losers have left the government paralyzed: Twenty months after the election, there is still not even a permanent defense minister.

Morever, Ghani believes that a decisive military victory over the Taliban is impossible. This is probably correct — but he is therefore committed to cultivating close ties with Pakistan in the hope that Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA, will deliver the Taliban to the table for peace talks. But Ghani is wrong on two counts. The Taliban have no reason to agree to a power-sharing peace settlement, since they can still hope for an outright military victory. And Pakistan doesn’t really control the Taliban. There were preliminary peace talks early this year, but there has been nothing since July.  The Afghan army would be collapsing a good deal faster if so much of the Taliban’s attention were not focused on fighting off the challenge from Daesh. (It has killed at least a thousand Daesh terrorists this year.) But the Taliban still managed to seize the city of Kunduz in the north for a week in September, and now Sangin in the southwest is going.
We are seeing the usual short-term responses in the West. President Obama has halted the withdrawal of most of the remaining 9,800 US troops in the country (which was scheduled for the end of this year), and Britain has ordered ten of the 450 troops it still has in Afghanistan back to Sangin.

But that won’t make much difference, and there is no chance whatever that the NATO countries will build their troop strength in Afghanistan back up to the level — around 140,000 — where it was five years ago. The Afghans are on their own now.

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Comment:

Nice going Gwynne Dyer. You are no longer tacitly supporting terrorism, you are now publicly supporting the overthrow of legitimate governments.

Mike McDermid

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http://www.arabnews.com/columns/news/855431

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Pakistan’s Covert Taliban Approach

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by Hekmatullah Azamy

Gandhara News / Editorial

November 10, 2015

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In the years that followed the 9/11 attacks against the United States, Pakistani leaders prided themselves in being “the frontline state against terrorism” for years as Western leaders showered praise and assistance upon the country.

But the 2011 killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town and Islamabad’s continued tolerance of Afghan Taliban sanctuaries have inevitably led to accusations of duplicity.

Critics pointed out that while receiving billions of dollars from Western nations in the name of fighting terrorists, Islamabad was covertly supporting the Taliban and tolerated jihadist groups accused of fomenting violence in neighboring countries.

Sources within the Afghan Taliban now say Islamabad is engaged in similar double-dealing with the hardline movement.

They say that although Islamabad played a prominent role in enabling the succession of current Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, it has also shored up opponents within the radical Islamist movement to keep him in check and dependent on Pakistani support.

Since the confirmation of former leader Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death in July, Mansur has struggled to establish himself as the undisputed leader.

These sources, most of whom requested anonymity, say Pakistan’s response is a new policy to allow divisions within the group as a means to retain control over the fragmented movement.

Islamabad’s more immediate goal is allowing a divided Taliban leadership to take shape while preventing infighting among foot soldiers. Taliban insiders say in the longer term Islamabad wants to push Mansur into negotiations with Kabul while supporting the anti-Mansur camp in continued fighting within Afghanistan.

“Like its policy toward the mujahedin parties [of the 1980 and ’90s], Pakistan seeks to create factions within the Taliban and use them to threaten Mansur or balance influence among rival groups,” said Khalifa Akhund, a pseudonym for a Mansur supporter.

He says Tayyab Agha, former head of the Taliban’s office in Qatar, and renegade Taliban commander Mansoor Dadullah rejected Mansur’s leadership because of his close ties with Pakistan. Agha resigned from his post in August while in September Mansur dispatched hundreds of fighters to dislodge Dadullah from his stronghold in southern Afghanistan.

Akhund says some senior members of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban leadership council, including Mullah Hassan Rahmani, Mullah Abdul Razaq, and Abdul Manan Niazi, oppose Mansur at the behest of Pakistan.

A senior Afghan intelligence official concurred, speaking on the condition of anonymity, saying that unlike the mujahedin, Islamabad is not allowing pro- and anti-Mansur camps to fight each other because it would undermine their movement’s fighting potential on the battlefield.

This is why Kabul’s effort to foment Taliban infighting failed. “If divisions were not controlled, it could undermine the Taliban’s ability on the battlefield, and the group would be weaker whenever it joins negotiations,” he said.

The Afghan official said Islamabad is empowering Mansur’s potential rivals inside Afghanistan. He says Pakistan recently helped veteran Taliban commander Abdul Qayum Zakir launch large-scale offensives in southern Afghanistan. Since August, the Taliban have made significant advances in the Musa Qala and Kajaki districts of Helmand Province.

These operations compelled Mansur to offer Zakir to either become his first deputy or become the Taliban’s shadow “defense minister.” Zakir, a former Guantanamo detainee, was considered an archrival of Mansur. He was appointed head of the Taliban’s military commission in 2010, but Mansur reportedly sacked him in 2014.

Taliban sources say Mansur has long sought Taliban leadership with Pakistani assistance. In 2007, he replaced former Taliban deputy leader Mullah Obaidullah Akhund after his arrest in Pakistan.

In 2010, he helped Pakistan “orchestrate” the arrest of Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. These sources claim Mansur accused him of engaging in unauthorized talks with Kabul.

Soon after Baradar’s arrest, Mansur assumed his position and turned into the Taliban’s de facto leader.

Taliban sources say Pakistan’s backing of Mansur became apparent to them during their leadership transition this summer. Without Mansur and his Pakistani patrons’ permission, confirming Mullah Omar’s death [in July] would not have been possible,” Mawalwi Amin (name changed), a Taliban member, told me.

Amin offers three reasons for the timing of confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death reports, which were circulating for years. First, Kabul asked Pakistan to arrange a direct confirmation of Mullah Omar’s support for peace talks, as claimed in an Eid statement published under the late leader’s name on July 15. Second, to prevent defections from the Taliban to the Islamic State militants because of Mullah Omar’s prolonged absence. Finally, Pakistan and Mansur deemed the timing was right to publicly announce his leadership over the movement.

Qari Fida (name changed) is a senior Taliban figure who recently returned from Pakistan after meeting with Taliban leaders opposing Mansur. He says Islamabad’s aim is to divide the leadership after insurgent leaders attempted to act independently while exploring negotiations with Kabul.

He says that in early 2015, a Taliban faction decided to leave Pakistan after Islamabad pressured it to negotiate with Kabul. Islamabad was alarmed when some Taliban members boycotted the Mansur-sanctioned peace meeting with Afghan officials in early July.

Fida says by pressuring some Taliban to join peace talks, Pakistan also supports the anti-Mansur camp so they could continue operations in Afghanistan should Mansur strike a peace deal with Kabul. Earlier this year, Mansur faced considerable opposition from within the Taliban when he revealed a willingness to engage in peace talks. But he later dismissed the talks as enemy propaganda.

Powerful elements within the Taliban oppose peace talks and Mansur’s leadership, but Islamabad has so far done nothing to either urge them to support Mansur or warn them not to use Pakistan’s soil in their fight against the Afghan government.

In addition, Fida says, Pakistan’s willingness to work with an anti-Mansur camp is aimed at containing a possible Taliban rebellion against Pakistan because of concerns that Afghan rebels would support Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Islamabad sees TTP as an existential threat and has often claimed they operate from Afghan safe havens.

Recently, Pakistan has called for the resumption of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But Kabul has instead called on Islamabad to end its covert support for the Afghan Taliban.

A senior Afghan official says Pakistan is pushing hard for peace talks and has even complained to Kabul about ignoring its calls for the resumption of talks. “In order to please China, Pakistan is pushing to facilitate peace talks, but Kabul has lost trust over the country,” he said.

Kabul is apparently worried over Pakistan’s new approach, which aims to win one camp of the Taliban a role within the Afghan government while helping another to sustain the fight in Afghanistan.

Islamabad can only end these concerns if it makes a clean break with all Taliban factions by denying them sanctuary and covert assistance. U.S. President Barack Obama drew a similar conclusion when he called for an end to Taliban sanctuaries on October 14.

“Next week, I’ll host Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan, and I will continue to urge all parties in the region to press the Taliban to return to peace talks and to do their part in pursuit of the peace that Afghans deserve,” Obama said.

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Hekmatullah Azamy is a research analyst with the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) in Kabul, Afghanistan. These views are the author’s alone and do not represent those of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty or his employer.

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http://gandhara.rferl.org/content/afghanistan-pakistan-taliban-divide-and-rule/27311618.html

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Imagine Tolerating Child Rape

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by Congressman Duncan Hunter

U.S.House of Representatives, 50th District, CA

Sept. 23, 2015

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Imagine for a moment that you are serving in the U.S. Army and deployed to Afghanistan, and on your base there is clear evidence that child rape and other human rights violations are occurring at the hands of local Afghan police commanders and military officials.

You have already reported the crimes and nothing has been done.  Now you are standing face to face with a self-admitted child rapist and he’s laughing in your face—telling you to get lost.

What do you do?

That was the situation facing a group of Green Berets in Afghanistan, led by Captain Danny Quinn and Sergeant First Class Charles Martland.

There is no policy that requires our soldiers to look the other way, but, clearly, the fact that Quinn, Martland, and others have been punished for intervening in such cases of abuse shows exactly how our military leadership has decided to handle these cases.

In 2011, Quinn and Martland received reports that an Afghan woman was severely beaten by an Afghan commander when she went looking for her son.  Turned out her son had been kidnapped, chained to a bed and repeatedly raped by that same Afghan commander.

Quinn and Martland had experienced this before—twice, in fact.  Two other commanders received no punishment from the Afghan government for the rape of a 15-year-old girl and the honor killing of a commander’s 12-year-old daughter for kissing a boy.  And as Martland said, “I felt that morally we could no longer stand by and allow our ALP to commit atrocities.”

So Quinn and Martland confronted the commander.  He laughed in their face, told them he would not stop, and suggested they find something else to do with their time.

So Quinn picked up the commander and threw him on the ground.  Martland did the same.

In doing so, they conveyed to the commander, loud and clear, that the abuse of children—especially in the presence of U.S. forces—won’t be tolerated.

In a single confrontation, Quinn and Martland were able to do what the Afghan justice system and our own military commanders could not.  They sent a message in a language and terms he could understand and wouldn’t forget.

For doing the right thing, Quinn was immediately removed from the front line and shown the door by the Army.

Martland was also relieved from the same outpost, but he is now fighting to save his Army career after 11 years.  Because of his actions, Martland was reprimanded by the Army — at the direction of General Christopher Hass — and given a blemish on his record for “a physical altercation with a corrupt ALP commander.”

The Army stated he lacked integrity.

Even though Martland did not need to apologize, he did.  He committed to self-improvement, to show the Army that he could continue serving.  And in 2014, he was selected as runner up for the Special Warfare Training Group Instructor of the Year, competing against over 400 Senior NCOs.

This is the type of warrior and leader that deserves to be involuntarily removed from service?  I think not.

This is one case where better judgment must prevail.  Quinn and Martland were reprimanded because they were told it wasn’t their place to intervene and they should properly observe Afghanistan’s cultural and relationship practices.

There is no policy that requires our soldiers to look the other way, but, clearly, the fact that Quinn, Martland, and others have been punished for intervening in such cases of abuse shows exactly how our military leadership has decided to handle these cases.

A decision on Martland’s future rests with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, whom,  I am told, is fully aware of the many appeals on Martland’s behalf.  I have to believe that he’ll do the right thing and put one of our most elite and ethical warriors above an admitted rapist.

Deciding in Marltand’s favor, given the circumstances of the case, is the quickest and most effective way for the Department of Defense to show it won’t tolerate abuse and human rights violations of any kind.

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headline rewritten by Rawclyde!

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http://hunter.house.gov/hunter-secretary-carter-show-world-we-wont-tolerate-afghan-child-rape

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Taliban Al-Qaida Alliance Affirmed

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by Bruce Riedel

Brookings Institution

August 20, 2015

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Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the new leader of the Afghan Taliban, who calls himself the “Commander of the Faithful,” acknowledged and accepted a pledge of loyalty from the emir of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, this week in a public message broadcast by the Taliban’s media outlet. This is an unusual open acknowledgement by the Taliban of its continued alliance with al-Qaida and a blatant violation of the ground rules for any political reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s Voice of Jihad this week issued a statement of acceptance of al-Zawahiri’s pledge of loyalty to Mullah Mansour that al-Zawahiri issued earlier this month on al-Qaida’s official media outlet, As-Sahab. In the statement, Mullah Mansour praises al-Zawahiri as the “respected emir” of his “mujahedeen” and urges them to continue the war against America.

In the message, Mansour tells his supporters victory is in sight after 14 years of war. America and its “infidel allies” have been “humiliated, disgraced, and defeated” in Afghanistan and will withdraw their last troops in 2016 in defeat. The message implies the Taliban will allow al-Qaida to operate freely in Afghanistan. As-Sahab has already relocated back into Afghanistan after being based in Pakistan since 2002.

The Afghan Taliban never publicly broke with al-Qaida after 9/11, but they rarely mentioned their decades-old partnership. The major exception was when Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in 2011 by U.S. SEALs—then, the Taliban praised bin Laden as a hero of the Afghan jihad. The absence of Taliban commentary on al-Qaida led apologists for the Taliban to argue they had abandoned al-Qaida and were just Afghan nationalists or Pashtun warriors fighting a foreign occupation.

Al-Qaida in contrast always reaffirmed its loyalty to the Taliban, which had harbored it before and after 9/11. Without the Taliban safe haven before 9/11, the attacks would never have occurred; al-Qaida needed its Afghan sanctuary. Bin Laden’s son Hamza this week reaffirmed his loyalty to the Taliban in his first ever audio tape for al-Qaida.

Mullah Mohammad Omar, Mansour’s predecessor who died in a Karachi hospital under the protection of Pakistan’s spies, the ISI, avoided the media as much as possible. His lieutenants in the Quetta Shura—the Taliban’s top command council in Pakistan—knew advertising their continued links to the al-Qaida leadership would both irritate their ISI handlers and keep the Afghan Taliban isolated as a global pariah. So they kept their ties secret.

But parts of the Afghan Taliban were less discreet. The Haqqani network, which operates very closely with the ISI, made little secret of its support for al-Qaida. The Haqqanis have gained influence in the Taliban with Mullah Omar’s departure.

Mullah Mansour faces a growing challenge from supporters of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. They claim the true commander of the faithful is the Caliph Ibrahim—aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. By citing al-Zawahiri’s pledge of loyalty, Mullah Mansour is seeking to affirm his legitimacy by invoking the legacy of Osama bin Laden, al-Zawahiri’s predecessor and the icon of all jihadis. The ISI probably decided the bad publicity in the West was worth the gains of stronger legitimacy for its new protégé, Mullah Mansour. Perhaps no one would even notice.

Mullah Mansour’s public embrace of al-Zawahiri puts a major question mark over the future of any American-backed political reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Washington has long argued the Taliban need to renounce al-Qaida and its global terrorist network to be considered a legitimate partner for negotiations. That policy has enjoyed bipartisan support under two presidents.

The talks between the U.S.-supported Kabul government and the Taliban earlier this summer in Pakistan, which were ‘observed’ by America and China, have been suspended since the belated acknowledgement of Mullah Omar’s death by the Taliban. If they resume, Washington should make clear that the Taliban need to publicly and unequivocally break all ties with al-Zawahiri and his gang. Better they should be held accountable for helping bring him to justice.

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http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/markaz/posts/2015/08/20-al-qaida-alliance-taliban-riedel

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Peace In Afghanistan II

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by Carter Malkasian

Foreign Affairs / The Magazine

August 18, 2015

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MULLAH OMAR’S DEATH AND THE FUTURE OF PEACE TALKS

The first seven months of 2015 saw unprecedented movement toward peace in Afghanistan. A series of unofficial meetings between the Taliban and the Afghan government culminated in an official meeting in Pakistan on July 7. A second meeting was scheduled for July 31. The gatherings were preliminary, but real peace talks appeared close at hand. Then, on July 29, the world learned of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Mullah Omar was always the wild card for peace talks. Only he could ensure that the Taliban would stand together behind a deal, experts said. Without his endorsement, the talks would be illegitimate.

Sure enough, with the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death, momentum toward peace came to a halt. The meeting set for July 31 was postponed indefinitely. Then Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, rejected negotiations altogether and reissued the call for jihad against the United States and the Afghan government. Nearly a week after that, over the course of four days, three bombings wrecked Kabul, killing and injuring nearly 400 Afghans. The Taliban claimed responsibility. The question now is whether the window for peace talks is closed.

TABLING THE TALIBAN

The Taliban are immersed in a power struggle. Mansour is trying to secure his position against defiant rivals such as Abdul Qayum Zakir and Omar’s son Yakub, who question his right to rule. There are two possible outcomes to these struggles, each with its own implications for negotiations. One outcome is that the Taliban movement stays united. A single leader—Mansour or one of his current rivals—defeats all others and holds the movement together. In order to rule effectively thereafter, the new leader would have to prove himself. He would have to show the Taliban rank and file that he can carry the flag and wage war against the United States in Afghanistan. The presence of the Islamic State (also called ISIS), a credible threat to Taliban legitimacy, would further press the new leader to prove himself through war. For these reasons, any new leader would likely continue to reject peace negotiations, at least in the near term.

After six months to a year, the situation may change. Battlefield setbacks, the resilience of the Afghan unity government, and pressure from China and Pakistan might bring the Taliban back to the table. If this were to occur, a united Taliban would be a good basis for a lasting agreement, avoiding the spoilers and confusion of splinter groups.

Whether a new leader would seek peace over the long term depends partly on his true feelings toward negotiations. The West has only a hazy understanding of Mansour’s intentions. On the one hand, recent media reports have him bending to Pakistani pressure to send representatives to meet with Afghan officials and faking an official message from Omar (long dead) approving the idea of peace talks. On the other hand, his tribesmen tend to see him as a hardliner. Sometime before 2014, he told them that he expected the war to go on for years. He had seen the Taliban reconstitute themselves after 2001 and was confident they could persevere again.

The other possible outcome to the current Taliban power struggle is that, faced with internal feuding and a rising ISIS, the Taliban crumbles. Various groups with allegiances to different commanders spin off and form their own insurgencies. In this scenario, ISIS would gain adherents and perhaps become the strongest of the groups. The odds of a lasting peace deal in such a scenario would be almost nil. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would have no negotiating partner with enough weight to end the violence.

Yet, even in this case, there is a bright side. Taliban splinter groups and ISIS may very well start fighting with each other (as has already begun in Nangarhar). As they do, the Afghan army and police will become the dominant players on the battlefield by default. Ghani would then have leverage to work out individual peace deals with the leaders of the new splinter groups. Such peace deals would not end the violence, but could reduce it and reinforce the position of the Afghan government.

BETTING BIG

In the first half of 2015, cooperation between the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China enabled progress toward peace talks. Concessions by Ghani early in his term went a long way toward convincing Pakistan that a peaceful Afghanistan need not be a threat to its interests. In return, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistani Chief of the Army Raheel Sharif pressured the Taliban to meet with Afghan officials. China, with its close relationship with Pakistan, played an active and helpful role in facilitating discussions.

Omar’s death does not change the base interests behind multilateral cooperation—Pakistan and China do not want a long-term civil war in Afghanistan. By delaying the start of negotiations, however, his death does make it tougher to sustain cooperation. In fact, cooperation is already fraying. Ghani has come under intense criticism, especially from former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, for making concessions to Pakistan and getting little in return. He bet a lot on Pakistan bringing the Taliban to the table. With Omar’s death, Ghani now must wait for a return on that investment as car bombs go off in Kabul. His frustration is clear. On August 10, he gave a scathing public speech, criticizing Pakistan for allowing the Taliban to use its soil to kill innocent civilians in Afghanistan. Without something in return, continued civilian casualties may force Ghani to abandon rapprochement.

The Pakistani leadership’s ability to sustain cooperation is also of concern. The civilian government is said to have trouble controlling the country’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency (ISI). Many ISI operatives are thought to have longstanding ties with Taliban leaders. Moreover, Raheel is due to step down next year, and his successor may be less conciliatory. Over time, Pakistani leaders could decide that pressuring the Taliban (or its splinter groups) is not worth it. China could help here by pressing Pakistan to get the Taliban back to the table. But the West should temper its expectations. China values its trusted relationship with Pakistan. How far it will push Pakistan’s military leadership remains unknown.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

For now, the United States and the international community must be patient yet determined. It would be wrong to give up on peace negotiations and the gains of the past seven months. Whether the Taliban cohere or fragment, there may be another chance for peace talks six months to a year from now.

The immediate priority should be staunching Taliban advances on the battlefield. The United States should intensify air strikes and advise the Afghan government to intensify its own military operations. The level of violence see in Afghanistan last week shows that, for now, the war is still on. New setbacks for the Afghan army and police will embolden the Taliban and discredit peace talks. Furthermore, military defeats create a distinct risk for Ghani. He must respond to the Taliban’s salvo in Kabul in order to prevent opponents from further incapacitating the unity government or calling into question rapprochement with Pakistan. It might seem tempting to hold off on military operations in order to help build Mansour’s credibility. In theory, Mansour could consolidate his position as leader and then turn to peace talks. Such endeavors should be put aside. The risk is too great, his true intent—compromise or total victory—too unclear.

At the same time, the United States should protect the renewed relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Washington and the international community need to encourage cooperation and discourage a return to the status quo ante of distrust. They should help Ghani stick to his Pakistan-friendly policies and they should work with Pakistani leaders to ensure that bringing the Taliban to the peace table remains a priority, leveraging U.S. aid where necessary. The United States should work with China on this effort as well. Regular multilateral meetings between the United States, the Afghan government, Pakistan, and China could help keep focus on the issue of peace. Regional cooperation has been a powerful tool in pushing the Taliban toward the table.

To keep relations with the Taliban themselves alive, the United States and the Afghan government should fall back on regular informal discussions with the Taliban, such as the May 2015 Pugwash conference or the June 2015 meeting between Afghan women leaders and Taliban associates in Norway. It would be a shame to lose this helpful avenue for the two sides to meet face to face and build confidence.

The first seven months of 2015 were a hopeful time for Afghanistan. Even if the immediate opportunity for peace has diminished, a foundation of common regional interest persists. The United States and its allies should try to fortify this foundation so that the window of opportunity may reopen. Peace talks are not yet dead.

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https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2015-08-18/peace-possible-afghanistan

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Peace In Afghanistan

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Voice of Jihad

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

July 2015

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Peace is a natural demand of every human being, the very secret behind prosperity and development. The well-being of a nation lies in peace. Peace is a need for a society as water is for a fish. Prior to anything our beloved country needs durable peace. No doubt, our peace loving nation is craving for peace.

To demand peace is easy. Every person can raise voice for peace but peace will only be achieved and established in light of ground realities and through consideration of views and opinions of the people. It cannot be achieved by mere assertions. Rather it needs practical steps like removal of hurdles in the way of peace, establishment of an atmosphere of confidence and trust and initiation of a wise process.

Unfortunately, the current situation in our beloved country is heading towards use of force instead of peace advancement. Despite repeated promises, the invaders have not withdrawn from the battle field. Night raids and blind bombardments are still continuing. The officials of Kabul Administration are using peace for their own political objectives and propaganda. It shows that they have no commitment for peace because despite their hues and cries for peace they launched military operations in different parts of the country in severe cold weather last year. They had destroyed homes and gardens of common people and these destructive operations are still continuing. These activities on the part of the invaders and the Kabul administration have paved the way for continuation of the war.

Following points should be considered for peace.

1. Commitment and sincerity are the foremost elements for the peace process. A peace process which is also an Islamic obligation should not be used as a tool for deception, cunning and accusation of the opposite side. First of all those who want peace and working in the peace process should fear Allah, the Almighty. They should feel responsibility and should not play with the future of the oppressed nation.

2. Peace requires deep thoughts and discussions. A minor mistake in peace process could bring in enormous problems to our nation.

3. Peace requires serious moves based on realities otherwise it will deteriorate the peace process and pave the way for prolongation of war. Therefore, all the steps should be taken very carefully.

4. An important point in a peace process is the realization of the sentiments of opposite side. Peace should not be dubbed as surrender. Those who desire peace should not use it as an instrument of propaganda.

Islamic Emirate has repeatedly stated its commitment for a sustainable peace and has made efforts in this regards. As such, has put forward sensible strategy regarding peace process in different official and unofficial meetings. The end of occupation and establishment of an Islamic system has been determined as the primary goals of their legitimate struggle and sacred Jihad. Like in the past, the Islamic Emirate wants peace today and will strive for it in future as well. But the peace process should have some indications of commitment, sincerity and transparency. Ground realities should be taken into account because following a mirage in a dry desert has no meaning.

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Women In The Infantry

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Strategy Page

October 17, 2014

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October 17, 2014: After two years of trying to justify allowing women into the infantry, artillery and armor and special operations forces, the U.S. government has decided to just order the military to make it happen and without degrading the capabilities of these units. While the army is inclined the just say yes, find out what quotas the politicians want and go through the motions, the marines are refusing to play along. The marines are pointing out that the research does not support the political demands and that actually implementing the quotas could get people killed while degrading the effectiveness of the units involved. This is yet another reason why many politicians do not like the marines.

Back in 2012 the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were ordered to come up with procedures to select women capable of handling infantry and special operations assignments and then recruit some women for these jobs. This had become an obsession with many politicians. None of these proponents of women in the infantry have ever served in the infantry, but they understood that if they proceeded without proof that women could handle the job, that decision could mean getting a lot of American soldiers and marines killed. If it came to that, the military could be blamed for not implementing the new policy correctly.

So far the tests, overseen by monitors reporting back to civilian officials in Congress and the White House, have failed to find the needed proof that women can handle infantry combat. The main problem the military has is their inability to make these politicians understand how combat operations actually work and what role sheer muscle plays in success, or simply survival. But many politicians have become obsessed with the idea that women should serve in the infantry and are ignoring the evidence.

All this comes after decades of allowing women to take jobs that were more and more likely to result in women having to deal with combat. Not infantry combat, but definitely dangerous situations where you were under attack and had to fight back or die. The last such prohibition is the U.S. Department of Defense policy that forbids the use of female troops in direct (infantry type) combat. Despite the ban many women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan found themselves in firefights and exposed to roadside bombs, something that’s normal for a combat zone. Meanwhile, women were allowed to serve in MP (military police) units and serve regularly on convoy duty. Those convoys often included other female troops who were trained to fight back, if necessary. It was usually the MPs who did the fighting and the female MPs performed well. Several of them received medals for exceptional performance in combat. Hundreds of these female MPs were regularly in combat since September 11, 2001. This was the largest and longest exposure of American female troops to direct combat. Yet women have often been exposed to a lot of indirect combat. As far back as World War II, 25 percent of all troops in the army found themselves under fire at one time or another, although only about 15 percent of soldiers had a “direct combat” job. In Iraq women made up about 14 percent of the military personnel but only two percent of the casualties (dead and wounded). Most women do not want to be in combat but those who did get the job proved that they could handle it. This experience, however, did provide proof that women could perform in infantry or special operations type combat.

All this is actually an ancient problem. The issue of women in combat has long been contentious. Throughout history women have performed well in combat but mainly in situations where pure physical force was not a major factor. For example, women often played a large, and often decisive, part of the defending force in sieges. Many women learned to use the light bow (for hunting). While not as lethal as the heavy bows (like the English longbow), when the situation got desperate the female archers made a difference, especially if it was shooting a guys coming over the wall with rape and general mayhem in mind.

Once lightweight firearms appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries women were even deadlier in combat. Again, this only occurred in combat situations where the superior physical strength and sturdiness of men was not a factor. Much of infantry operations are all about the grunts (as infantry are often called) just moving themselves and their heavy loads into position for a fight. Here the sturdiness angle was all about the fact that men have more muscle and thicker bones. This makes men much less likely to suffer stress fractures or musculoskeletal injuries than women. This phenomenon has been noted as women became more active in sports like basketball. Modern infantry combat is intensely physical, and most women remain at a disadvantage here. There are some exception for specialist tasks that do not involve sturdiness or strength, like sniping. Then there is the hormonal angle. Men generate a lot more testosterone, a hormone that makes men more decisive and faster to act in combat. Moreover testosterone does not, as the popular myth goes, make you more aggressive, it does make you more aware and decisive. That makes a difference in combat.

The main problem today is that the average load for a combat infantryman is over 40 kg (88 pounds) and men (in general) have always had more muscle, upper body strength and the ability to handle heavy loads better than women. But in situations like convoy escort, base security, or support jobs in the combat zone the combat load is lower and more manageable for women. At that point there’s plenty of recent evidence that women can handle themselves in combat. That said, women, more than men, prefer to avoid serving in combat units. During the last decade American recruiters found it easier to find young men for combat units than for support jobs. It’s mainly female officers who demand the right to try out for combat jobs. That’s because the most of the senior jobs in the military go only to those who have some experience in a combat unit. But when the marines allowed 14 female marines to take the infantry officer course, none could pass and all agreed that they were treated just like the male trainees. This was not a unique situation.

Because of the strenuous nature of combat jobs (armor, artillery, and engineers, as well as infantry) there are physical standards for these occupations. The U.S. military calls it a profile and if you do not have the physical profile for a job, you can’t have it. Thus while many men are not physically fit for the infantry, even fewer women are. For example, 55 percent of women cannot do the three pull-ups required in the physical fitness test, compared to only one percent of men. Some women could meet the physical standards and be eager to have the job. But Western nations (including Canada) that have sought to recruit physically qualified female candidates for the infantry found few volunteers and even fewer who could meet the profile and pass the training. So while it is theoretically possible that there are some women out there who could handle the physical requirements, none have so far come forward to volunteer for infantry duty. A recent survey of female soldiers in the U.S. Army found that over 92 percent would not be interested in having an infantry job. The last two years of American research into the matter concluded that about three percent of women could be trained to the point where they were at the low end of the physically “qualified” people (male or female) for infantry combat. What that bit of data ignores is how many of those physically strong women would want a career in the infantry or special operations. There would be a few, but for the politicians who want women represented in infantry units this would smack of tokenism. Moreover this comes at a time when physical standards for American infantry and special operations troops have been increasing, because this was found to produce more effective troops and lower American casualties.

One area where women are sometimes recruited for infantry combat is in commando and paramilitary intelligence organizations. This is kept secret but having a combat-qualified woman along on some missions can be the key to success. While these women usually cannot carry as much weight, they often have language, cultural, and other skills that make them an essential part of the team. Exceptions can be made for exceptional people and the exceptional missions where they can be decisive. Women have long served as spies, and this is apparently how women came to become part of some commando organizations.

When the U.S. used conscription the infantry ended up with a lot of less-muscular and enthusiastic men in the infantry. Allowances were made for this, but for elite units there were no corners cut and everyone had to volunteer and meet high physical standards. That made a very noticeable difference in the combat abilities of the elite unit. Now all infantry are recruited to those old elite standards and it would wreck morale and decrease the number of male volunteers if it was mandated that some less physically qualified women be able to join infantry units. This doesn’t bother a lot of politicians but it does bother the guys out there getting shot at.

Meanwhile over the last century women have been increasingly a part of the military. In most Western nations over ten percent of military personnel are female. In the U.S. military it’s now 15 percent. A century ago it was under one percent (and most of those were nurses and other medical personnel). More women are in uniform now because there aren’t enough qualified men, especially for many of the technical jobs armed forces now have to deal with. In the United States women became more of a presence in the armed forces after the military went all-volunteer in the 1970s. That led to more and more combat-support jobs being opened to women. This became popular within the military because the women were often better at these support jobs. This led to women being allowed to serve on American combat ships in 1994. In most NATO countries between 5-10 percent of sailors are women, while in Britain it is 10 percent, and in the United States 16 percent.

Once women were allowed to fly combat aircraft, it was only a matter of time before some of them rose to command positions. Currently, about ten percent of navy officers are female, as are nine percent of enlisted personnel. Only 4.2 percent of navy aviators (pilots) are women, as are 6.9 percent of flight officers (non-pilot aircrew). In the air force five percent of pilots are women. Women now command warships and air combat units (including fighter squadrons). Some women, and their political supporters, want to do the same thing in the infantry and special operations. If only the physical problems could be taken care of.

Advocates for women in combat also have to worry about combat casualties and the very well documented history of women in combat. During World War II over five million women served in the military, although they suffered fewer losses than the men, several hundred thousand did die. These women were often exposed to combat, especially when fighting as guerillas or operating anti-aircraft guns and early warning systems in Russia, Germany, and Britain. Russia also used women as traffic cops near the front line, as snipers, and as combat pilots. They tried using them as tank crews and regular infantry, but that didn’t work out. Women were most frequently employed in medical and other support jobs. The few who served as snipers or pilots were very good at it.

Most of the women who served in combat did so in guerilla units, especially in the Balkans and Russia. The women could not haul as heavy a load as the men but this was often not crucial, as many guerillas were only part-time fighters, living as civilians most of the time. Full time guerilla units often imposed the death penalty for pregnancy, although the women sometimes would not name the father. That said, guerilla organizations often imposed the death penalty for a number of offenses. The guerillas had few places to keep prisoners and sloppiness could get a lot of guerillas killed. The women tended to be more disciplined than the men and just as resolute in combat.

In the last century there have been several attempts to use women in combat units, and all have failed. When given a choice, far fewer women will choose combat jobs (infantry, armor, artillery). But duty as MPs does attract a lot of women, as do jobs like fighter, bomber, helicopter pilots and crews, and aboard warships. That works.

Meanwhile the casualty rate for women in Iraq was over ten times what it was in World War II, Vietnam, and the 1991 Gulf War (where 30,000 women served). A lot of the combat operations experienced by women in Iraq involved base security or guard duty. Female troops performed well in that. These were jobs that required alertness, attention to detail, and ability to quickly use your weapons when needed. Carrying a heavy load was not required. In convoy operations women have also done well, especially when it comes to spotting, and dealing with, IEDs (roadside bombs and ambushes). Going into the 21st century, warfare is becoming more automated and less dependent on muscle and testosterone. That gives women an edge, and they exploit it, just as they have done in so many other fields.

Meanwhile the military has been ordered to continue conducting experiments in order to find a way to justify allowing females in the infantry and special operations troops. After that comes the difficulty in finding women who are willing to volunteer and pass whatever standards survive.

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/20141017.aspx

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“One Step Closer” by Nigel Hendrickson

http://soulrebel.cgsociety.org

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Pakistan Seeks Good Karma

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by Muhammad Tahir

Xinhua News

Sept 30, 2014

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ISLAMABAD, Sept. 30 — Pakistani leaders are hopeful to develop good neighborly relations with the new Afghan government as the years of tensions have proved unhelpful to effectively counter serious security challenges.

In his farewell speech last week, former President Hamid Karzai blamed both the United States and Pakistan for the continuing war with the Taliban insurgents. This blame game continued for a long time over the cross-border shelling, lack of cooperation to jointly fight terrorism and alleged hideouts of the Taliban militants in both countries. The lack of trust harmed all efforts for reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban and Karzai admitted his failure to carry forward the reconcilary process.

Karzai also pointed out that peace with the Taliban is not possible without the help of the U.S. and Pakistan. Cross-border attacks have caused a serious blow to bilateral relations and Afghan Foreign Minister Zarar Ahmad Osmani raised the issue of the alleged Pakistani “rocketing into Afghanistan” at his U.N. General Assembly’s address last week. This shows a deterioration in bilateral relations, as Kabul preferred an international forum rather than using bilateral diplomatic channels.

Kabul claims Pakistani rockets affect “civilians” in eastern Kunar province. Pakistan, however, denies it fired rockets into civilian areas and says its forces only target positions of the militants who attack Pakistani border posts. Karzai seemed to be upset at what he described as, “Pakistan’ s lack of cooperation” to encourage the Taliban to enter into peace talks with his government.

Islamabad, for its part, added that they do not have control over the Taliban and that it can only play the role of a facilitator. Pakistani officials insist they have freed over 50 Taliban detainees, including some senior leaders and former ministers, at the request of Karzai and his peace council to accelerate the reconciliation process, however, all the freed Taliban refused to join the intra-Afghan dialogue.

For its part, Pakistan says it is disappointed at “Afghanistan’ s failure to stop the Pakistani Taliban from entering the Afghan side of the border.” Security officials insist that many Pakistani Taliban fighters who have fled to Afghanistan following military operations in the tribal regions and Swat valley, now operate from the Afghan border region. Afghanistan-based Pakistan Taliban insurgents are being blamed for cross-border attacks on check post and villages. Pakistan military spokespeople have claimed that the Afghan gov’ t has not helped to stop fleeing militants from crossing the border from North Waziristan tribal region, where the security forces are battling local and foreign militants.

Pakistani forces launched the biggest offensive in the region in June to flush out the militants from their last major sanctuary. Afghanistan itself and the U.S. had also been calling for the operation, as they claimed al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network also had hideouts in North Waziristan.

As political tensions had a negative impact on bilateral relations over the past 13 years, the two countries now have a good opportunity to bury the hatchet and deal with the post-NATO situation. Any instability in Afghanistan will directly affect Pakistan’s fragile security situation.

Pakistan made the wise decision to represent itself at the highest level in attending the swearing-in ceremony for President Ashraf Ghani on Monday. President Mamnoon Hussain was the only head of the state among the nearly 200 foreign guests who attended Afghanistan’s historic first ever democratic transition. President Mamnoon Hussain held separate meetings with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and ” conveyed Pakistan’s commitment to working closely with the new government for the promotion of common goals,” the Foreign Ministry said late Monday at the conclusion of his day-long visit to Kabul.

“Underlining the importance Afghanistan attached to its relations with Pakistan, President Ashraf Ghani reiterated his perspective that both countries should have a ‘special relationship,'” a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Dr. Abdullah also expressed his desire for the new government to forge a cooperative and forward-looking relationship with Pakistan. Statements from the leadership of the two countries have raised hopes for a new tension-free beginning, as their cooperation could enable them to meet the ongoing serious security challenges they would be facing after the foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan in less than three months.

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http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2014-09/30/c_133685329.htm

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A Somewhat Enlightening Perspective

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WAHABI SAUDI KINGDOM

HAS PLANTED REGIONAL CALIPH

IN PAKISTAN

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The Wahabis of SAUDI KINGDOM have now their puppet as new prime minister of Pakistan. In my book “DIVIDE PAKISTAN TO ELIMINATE TERRORISM”, I had mentioned about the involvement of Saudi Kingdom in financing global terrorism and using Pakistan’s soil for this purpose. The Wahabi children of Abu Sufyan and Mawiya who represent the Saudi Kingdom in 21st century would now move forward to fulfil their ambitions of eliminating Iran and Syria under the auspices of Wahabi cum Punjabi army of Pakistan. General Zia had already made a policy of not allowing Shias to reach to higher ranks within Pakistan’s army. That policy is still in force. Now, Saudi Kingdom needs their puppet Wahabi Nawaz Sharif to follow their instructions and use the Punjabi Wahabi army against Iran and Syria. Perhaps, this is the beginning of downfall of Pakistan which was delayed due to PPP’s government. In my opinion, the disintegration of Pakistan is possible through communal riots and rising of masses against the Wahabi doctrine. Shias and true Sunnis who love Ale-Rasool AS can join hands in combatting these Saudis. It is a fact that Pakistan’s existence is unnatural and as such Pakistan needs to be divided immediately to avoid any big disaster. The Wahabi elements have already united against the lovers of Ale-RasoolAS. It is expected that the Syrian war will now be fought on Pakistan’s soil. It is my expectation that around 100,000 more people will die during 2014 in Pakistan. Punjabi army is determined to crush the Shias living in Pakistan because Punjabi army has chosen to become dogs of Saudi Kingdom instead of acting as protectors of citizens of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif is a symbol of WAHABI-ISM in Pakistan and a planted CALIPH of SAUDI KINGDOM. Nawaz Sharif considers himself not less than a king and he has demonstrated this feeling on many occasions. The undiminishing pride and ever escalating sense of superiority on the part of Nawaz Sharif clearly show that Nawaz Sharif will go for a foul play on large scale and Pakistan will ultimately disintegrate due to this GREAT MISTAKE. On the other side of Pakistan politics, though Altaf Hussain is being blackmailed because of his involvement in the murder of Dr. Imran Farooq by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies in exchange of his cooperation with Nawaz government and “solidarity” with Punjabi army, it is my pray that Altaf Hussain must die his natural death as soon as possible. Altaf Hussain has become a great hurdle in the way of freedom of Urdu speaking nation. Making of an independent state (REPUBLIC OF JINNAHPUR) has been delayed due to Altaf Hussain being alive. The whole MQM has been hijacked by Altaf Hussain and therefore nobody in the MQM is ready to talk about independence. Those who had talked about independence are no longer with MQM at the moment. Some of them are still monitoring the current situation and a revolt is on the cards depending on how soon Altaf Hussain must leave this world with his British passport to be placed on his chest inside his coffin. Time has now come for Mohajir youth not to relax but be ready for encounter with Punjabi army. The mohajir youth should not look at Altaf Hussain but decide on their own. Wahabis are now knocking our doors to eliminate lovers of Ale-Rasool AS and repeat the history of Karbala. The Saudi Kingdom is the real sponsor of international terrorism and now they are active in USING NAWAZ SHARIF to complete their pending work. Saudi Kingdom wants to destroy Iran and want to use Punjabi army for this purpose. Indeed Punjabi army has no problem too as they also consider lovers of Ale-Rasool AS as their biggest enemies. So, who will confront the Punjabi army? It is only the Urdu speaking nation who can confront Punjabi army by making an independent country called JINNAHPUR and pave way for further disintegration of Pakistan. Altaf Hussain is no longer sincere with Mohajir nation and wants to save his own skin i.e to avoid implication in the murder of Dr. Imran Farooq. Altaf Hussain is now politically IMPOTENT and USELESS for any bold political decisions. Mohajir nation must rise to achieve their own freedom. Punjabi army which is the army of Saudi Kingdom in reality is ready to follow the footsteps of YAZEED and under the auspices of Nawaz government, Punjabi army will do its best to ensure that Urdu speaking nation remains as an isolated nation without any political right to decide its own freedom.
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Vote Audit Getting Tricky

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Afghanistan Express Daily Newspaper

July 21, 20014

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The process of vote audit resumed a day after differences emerged between the two election camps. According to the IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor, the differences emerged between the two sides whether votes with voter signatures and finger impressions should be considered as valid or not. With the suspension of the process last Sunday, the two teams and the United Nations started negotiations for reaching an agreement over the problem. According to the IEC officials, the stakeholders have agreed to count the votes with signatures as valid…

The differences over the process of vote audit indicate the challenges that lie ahead of the process. It proves the democratic experiment in the country a very immature and flawed one. Lack of commitment among the Afghan political spectrum discredited the democratic process for power transition and is continuing to harm Afghanistan’s long-term interests. And the responsibility for this situation lies mainly on the Afghan government that failed to lead a sound and transparent process. The aftermaths of the runoff election was almost a total failure for the country as it led Afghanistan on the brink of a potential abyss of violence and civil war. Along with the government, the Independent Election Commission and its audit branch Electoral Complaints Commission played a terribly flawed role in the process.

Given that the process has been almost derailed from its constitutional ground there are now immense distrusts among the public regarding the whole political process. John Kerry’s mediation which produced an agreement of power-sharing between the two candidates was deemed as an outlet from the crisis. As a result of the agreement, election tensions deescalated and the process of vote audit got underway. With the agreement, a potentially dangerous crisis was averted and Afghanistan closely missed another chapter of instability and violence. The irresponsible approach of Afghan statesmen and national institutions towards the country’s election process harmed the country in a way that can be compared to the Taliban insurgency.

Despite the US-mediated agreement that saved Afghanistan from a potential instability and brought it back to the consititional course, the election camps still are pushing for their narrow-sighted interests while national institutions such as the electoral commissions have lost the legitimacy in the eyes of the public to judge differences and make decisions for the process. Seemingly, the candidate’s camps have been engaged in differences over whether votes with fingerprints and signatures shall be invalidated or not. This raises the question that while the two teams are not able to commit to their agreement when it comes to the relatively clean votes from Kabul province, how they would be able to handle the process and stick to their commitments when the election bodies start auditing votes from other controversial provinces.

Anyway, the election camps must remain committed to the agreement made recently. And the government and electoral bodies need to learn from past experiences and lead a sound process based on democratic principles and Afghanistan’s long-term interests.

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http://theafghanistanexpress.com/the-tricky-process-of-vote-audit

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Attack On Peace Council Man…

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by Haleem

Xinhua News

June 23, 2014

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KABUL, June 23 — A suicide bomber blew up his explosive-laden car next to the bullet-proof vehicle of Masoom Stanikzai, secretariat chief for the government-backed High Peace Council, on Saturday (2 weeks ago) in Kabul City, killing the suicide bomber and a passerby and injuring three others but Stanikzai narrowly escaped, according to the police.

Local political observers believe that the brazen attack against the high-rank member of the government-backed peace body was a major blow to the government-initiated peace process with the Taliban militants. “Since one of the policies of Taliban outfit is to target and physically eliminate peacemaking and peace loving personalities, their attack on Mr. Stanikzai on Saturday would damage the ongoing peace process,” a political analyst and editor in chief of the newspaper Daily Afghanistan, Mohammad Reza Hweda, said in talks with Xinhua.

The High Peace Council, in a statement released hours after the suicide attack, blamed “the enemies of peace” in Afghanistan for the attack and strongly condemned it. “The terrorists and the enemies of Afghanistan, by staging the suicide attack against Stanikzai, was an attempt to physically eliminate him and deprive the country of a patriotic citizen and also to block the peace process from pushing through,” the statement said.

Although the “enemies of peace” is a term used by Afghan officials against the Taliban militants, the government-backed High Peace Council did not directly put the blame on any specific group or individual behind the attack.

Stanikzai, who is a an adviser to President Hamid Karzai, is a staunch supporter of peace talks with the Taliban and is hopeful that efforts for negotiation with militants would soon lead to national reconciliation and peace in the strife-torn country.

Established in 2010, the High Peace Council is authorized to contact the Taliban militants and other similar groups to lay down arms and join the government. “The government should have a clear definition from the enemies of peace. The government has to tell the people who the enemies of peace are, otherwise, the people would get confused,” Hweda told Xinhua.

Taliban militants fighting the government have repeatedly rejected President Hamid Karzai government’s offer for peace talks, saying there will be no talks with the Kabul administration as long as foreign troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

Even though the public opinion in Kabul has blamed Taliban militants for the attack on Stanikzai, the militant group has yet to claim responsibility.

Taliban militants, in a suicide attack in September 2011, also targeted Stanikzai’s former chief, chairman of High Peace Council Burhanudin Rabbani in his Kabul residence, killing Rabbani along with four of his bodyguards. In that attack Stanikzai was also injured.

The majority of the Afghan people believe that the Taliban militants do not really want peace but want to return to power through an armed struggle and re-impose their brutal brand of Islamic rule in the country.

According to Afghan analysts, no ranking Taliban leaders have joined the government-initiated peace process over the past couple of years, even though the government has freed hundreds of militants from prisons.

The freed detainees in many cases have rejoined their former comrades and began fighting the Afghan forces and NATO-led forces stationed in Afghanistan.

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http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2014-06/23/c_133430100.htm

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Afghanistan’s Islamic Future

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by Muhammad Amin Mudaqiq & Abubakar Siddique

Gandhara News & Analysis

May 19, 2014

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As NATO troops wind down more than a decade of combat operations in Afghanistan, it is increasingly likely that some version of political Islam will be central to politics and governance in the country for the foreseeable future. Despite the violence that has marked Afghan Islamist factions in recent years, their inclusion may yet help pave the way to a more peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
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For centuries, Afghans practiced a moderate version of Islam that emphasized religious observance but remained marginal to politics.  Islam was invoked to mobilize Afghans for empire building and defeating foreign invasions. Until a few decades ago, political Islam was not a source of extremism and violence.
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The modern Islamist movement in Afghanistan emerged in response to the rise of communist factions in the 1960s and ’70s. Pakistan, Afghanistan’s eastern neighbor, tapped into the potential of this nascent force, which was led by students and teachers of Kabul University.
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Islamabad’s support, Western backing, and communist persecution propelled the once marginal Muslim Youth Organization into a robust guerilla organization that resisted the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. Its leaders and members became holy warriors, or mujahedeen.
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Once in power in Kabul after the fall of Afghan socialism in 1992, the mujahedeen evolved into factional warlords in a fratricidal civil war. What eventually emerged was the Taliban, a new breed of rural hardline Islamists.
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The Taliban’s campaign to restore order in the mid-1990s attracted support in some Afghan regions, and they crushed most mujahedeen factions. However, they failed to deliver effective governance and were hijacked by Arab, Pakistani, and Central Asian extremists whose actions ultimately led to their downfall in late 2001.
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Twelve years later, a mujahedeen-dominated Afghan government is struggling with a resurgent Taliban. To ensure future stability, these two major currents of Afghan Islamists will need to make peace. Additionally, Afghanistan’s leaders must reverse past mistakes of excluding Taliban factions in governance and give them a stake in the political process.
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The international community can support these efforts by encouraging Kabul to engage former mujahedeen and the Taliban’s current leadership – at province, district, and tribal levels — and to enter a constructive peace process in governing Afghanistan together.
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Economic and partisan stakes in the current political system coaxed former mujahedeen warlords to accept new roles as politicians and administrators. Similar incentives for Taliban leaders will considerably weaken their military zeal and prevent them from turning into jihadist proxies for Al-Qaeda or regional states.
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Pakistan, too, plays a role. The imperative of domestic security must compel Islamabad to back intra-Afghan reconciliation wholeheartedly, and Pakistani leaders must deliver on recent promises to unequivocally back the elected Afghan government and refrain from supporting armed factions.
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Inclusion and commitment to Afghanistan’s independence are not new concepts to the Taliban. Their literature indicates that while they are still committed to creating a more “Islamic” Afghanistan, the movement has abandoned moves to recreate an “Islamic Emirate” and no longer aspires to promote jihad across borders.
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Taliban leaders now need to apply the lessons learned from Islamist movements elsewhere to chart their new path. Former mujahedeen enemies can convince the Taliban to strive for the implementation of Islamic laws through a peaceful political process, in the same way that many Pakistani lslamist political parties, whose leaders can be considered Taliban mentors, have publically shunned violence and entered into coalitions as a means to achieve their political goals.
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The best way forward for Afghanistan’s Islamist factions is to the path to reconciliation. Indeed, many former Taliban leaders have already integrated into the Afghan political system by becoming lawmakers, governors, and peace negotiators. Hizb-e Islami, a separate insurgent faction, has largely been reintegrated into the new Afghanistan. The move into the political mainstream requires a commitment to peace and a desire to leave sanctuaries in Pakistan in return for a cooperative future in Afghanistan.

.In return, the Afghan government must accept that the Taliban cannot reinvent themselves unless past grievances are addressed and they are accepted as a political movement with legitimate aspirations. Establishing a robust judiciary will be key to enticing the Taliban, as justice is central to Islamic notions of governance. Following Afghanistan’s presidential elections in April, the new government should make creating a new judiciary a national priority.

.The future of Islamism in Afghanistan is fraught with challenges. But if handled properly, political Islam could instead become a mainstay of Afghan politics and a guarantor of stability. The political future of Afghanistan need not reflect its troubled past.

.Muhammad Amin Mudaqiq is the director of RFE/RL Radio Mashaal. Abubakar Siddique is an RFE/RL correspondent. The views are the authors’ own and do not represent those of RFE/RL

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http://gandhara.rferl.org/content/article/25258834.html

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