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

https://www.youtube.com/user/BurkaAvenger

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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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