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Taliban insurgents want peace, senior leader says at Moscow talks

Head of Political Office of the Taliban Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai (L) and member of Political Office of Taliban Shahabuddin Delawar (R) in Moscow, May 28, 2019.
© Reuters / Mikhail Antonov
RT | May 28, 2019

Senior Taliban officials including the group’s top political advisor met with Afghan political figures in Moscow on Tuesday, saying they were committed to peace in Afghanistan.

The statement comes as US-led talks appear to have stalled, AFP said.

Taliban co-founder and political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said the insurgents want an end to 18 years of conflict – but would only sign a deal after foreign forces quit Afghanistan.

The Taliban are “really committed to peace, but think the obstacle for peace should be removed first,” Baradar said in a rare televised appearance at the start of the two-day meeting marking 100 years of diplomatic ties between Russia and Afghanistan. “The obstacle is the occupation of Afghanistan, and that should end,” Baradar said.

May 28, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | Leave a comment

Talks with US in Doha stumble over troop withdrawal timetable: Afghan Taliban

Press TV – May 6, 2019

The Taliban militant group says peace talks with the US — which have been underway in Qatar for months — have stalled over the key issue of a timetable for American and other foreign troops to pull out of Afghanistan, a longtime Taliban demand.

A Taliban political spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told the AFP on Sunday that the two sides have so far failed to hammer out their differences on how to put their draft agreement on the withdrawal timetable into action.

The two sides are trying “to narrow the differences and have an agreement on a timetable which is acceptable to both sides,” but “that has not been achieved so far.”

He also explained that nothing would move forward “in principle” until America announced a withdrawal timetable.

“If we are not able to finalize it in this round, then … peace would be far away rather than being closer,” Shaheen added.

Since last year, sixth rounds of talks have been held in Doha between the militant group and US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and his delegation of about two dozen officials in the hope of ending an American war in Afghanistan that has dragged on for over 17 years.

The latest round began on May 1, and it is not clear if the talks were to continue Monday, which marks the first day of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

The negotiations have so far excluded Afghan officials. The Taliban refuse to hold talks with the government in Kabul, which the militant group views as illegitimate and a US puppet.

In February, Khalilzad claimed progress in the talks, saying that a deal was within reach by July.

Khalilzad has repeatedly said that for things to progress, the Taliban must ensure Afghanistan is never again used as a terrorist safe haven, implement a ceasefire, and speak to Afghan representatives.

The Taliban have said they will not do anything until the US announces a withdrawal timeline.

Earlier this week, the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid called on the US to end the use of force in Afghanistan instead of putting pressure on the militant group to cease fire.

“Instead of such fantasies, he [Khalilzad] should drive the idea home [to the US] about ending the use of force and incurring further human and financial losses for the decaying Kabul administration,” he added.

The US embassy in Kabul did not immediately comment on the Taliban’s latest statement.

The Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the 2001 US-led invasion, but 17 years on, Washington — having failed to end the Taliban’s militancy campaign — is seeking truce with the militants.

Observers say the militant group is now negotiating from a position of strength as it has managed to strengthen its grip over the past three years, with the government in Kabul controlling just 56 percent of the country, down from 72 percent in 2015, according to a US government report released last year.

The Taliban have even continued to carry out daily attacks on Afghan security forces amid the negotiations.

Last week, thousands of tribal elders and other figures held a rare grand assembly — known as Loya Jirga — in Kabul to express their views about a peace deal with Taliban.

At the end of that meeting, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered Taliban a truce deal.

The militants were, however, quick to reject the offer and launched attacks on a police station in northern Afghanistan, leaving over a dozen people dead there on Sunday.

May 6, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 1 Comment

US denies visa to ICC chief prosecutor, unhappy with her probing American war crimes in Afghanistan

RT | April 5, 2019

Washington has annulled the entry visa of Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, after the State Department vowed to shield Americans from “unjust prosecutions” of possible war crimes in Afghanistan.

“We can confirm that the US authorities have revoked the prosecutor’s visa for entry into the US,” Bensouda’s office told Reuters in an email. However, the move should not restrict her travels to the UN headquarters in New York City.

Less than a month ago, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear that the US would not allow Americans to live in “fear of unjust prosecutions” just because thousands of citizens were sent to “defend” their country on the other side of the globe, some 7,000 miles away.

“If you’re responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of US personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan, you should not assume that you still have, or will get, a visa or that you will be permitted to enter the United States,” he warned in mid-March.

Over the last two years, the Gambian lawyer has been probing US-led war crimes in Afghanistan but has not yet opened a formal investigation into alleged atrocities conducted over the last 18 years. For now, the preliminary inquiry remains in Pre-Trial Chamber, even though Bensouda found a “reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan.”

Only the American military system can judge the servicemen, Pompeo said, warning the ICC to drop their inquiry. “We are prepared to take additional steps, including economic sanctions, if the ICC does not change course,” Pompeo warned.

The ICC is investigating alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by various parties in the protracted conflict, including US forces, as detailed in a 2016 report. The part concerning unidentified members of the US military and intelligence relates to dozens of cases in 2003-2004, and alleged crimes like torture, cruel treatment, and sexual assault.

The ICC says those crimes may have been committed in furtherance of US policy in the freshly occupied country, rather than a set of individual unrelated atrocities. In light of this, Washington’s resistance to the probe may be more than a sign of principled rejection of any international authority over US nationals.

US courts have not been very forthcoming in prosecuting Americans for such crimes. A notable exception is the case of retired US Army Ranger turned CIA civilian contractor David Passaro. Over two nights in 2003, he tortured to death an Afghan man named Abdul Wali, who turned himself in after being accused of taking part in a rocket attack on a US base.

Passaro was sentenced to serve eight years and four months in prison, and later said he was a scapegoat for the US government, which wanted to show the public that it was holding the CIA accountable in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Read more:

International court judge resigns, citing ‘shocking’ interference from ‘above the law’ US


April 5, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Kill Them Over There, Not Here, Please.

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | March 20, 2019

All of us must stand against hatred in all of its forms. – Barrack Obama

Israel mourns the wanton murder of innocent worshippers – Benjamin Netanyahu

White supremacist terrorism must be condemned by leaders everywhere – Hillary Clinton

People of all faiths must condemn these attacks and call out those who encourage Islamophobia. – Madeleine Albright

These are excerpts from some of the messages of condolence sent to New Zealand by ‘world leaders’ after the Christchurch massacre. There is no point in giving more names because all politicians and public figures would say the same, as they should, given the monstrosity of the crime.

Obama, Netanyahu, Clinton, and Albright have been chosen because they have been responsible for acts of murder infinitely greater than the slaughter of 50 Muslims in New Zealand.

The victims of their crimes and the crimes of their political predecessors in the past three decades run into the millions. Brenton Tarrant terrorized Muslims in two mosques in one country. They have terrorized Muslim populations in a number of countries. He has violated New Zealand law. They have violated international law. He will be punished but they never are.

Obama, Netanyahu, Clinton, and Albright have never uttered a word of remorse for the crimes they have committed. Not once has the head of any western government expressed regret for the millions of people killed in Muslim countries over the past three decades, not with Brenton Tarrant’s semi-automatic firearms, but bombs, missiles, and tank fire or, in the case of Syria, with the armed gangs set loose like attack dogs.

When asked whether she thought the ‘price’ paid for the first Gulf War (1991) and the decade of sanctions that followed, which took the lives of 500,000 children, was worth it, Madeleine Albright replied: ‘We think the price is worth it.’

For these governments and politicians, the price is always worth it as long as someone else pays. Even now there is nothing but estimates of how many Iraqis were killed or died as a result of the two wars launched against their country but the figure hovers around three million since 1991.

On top of this are the millions of wounded, many disabled for life, and the children born with deformities because of the use of uranium-depleted weapons.

Senior UN officials described the war and decade of sanctions against Iraq as genocide. No horror was expressed in the media for the enormous crimes that had been committed almost wholly against Muslims, men, women, and children as innocent as Brenton Tarrant’s victims.  Except on the margins, no demands were ever made for those responsible to face justice.

Every Tuesday Obama sat in his office and signed the death warrant for Yemenis or Somalis targeted in drone missile strikes that were totally illegal under international law. Thousands have been killed in these attacks, many if not most of them civilians, men, women and a lot of children. They are all Muslims. Did any of the politicians sending condolences to New Zealand and condemning terrorism ever bend their heads in shame at the killings in Yemen or Somalia and demand moral accountability and legal responsibility?

Has even one of them condemned Benjamin Netanyahu for the crimes committed against Muslims in Palestine, for the massacres of the innocent by sniper fire, missile strike, and artillery fire? Is the killing of Muslim children somehow different in New Zealand and Palestine?

After the destruction of Libya, Hillary Clinton laughed when told Muammar al Qadhafi had been killed, most brutally. This was her war, Obama’s war, a war of deceit that was carried on for seven months, destroying the most developed country in Africa and killing thousands. They were all Muslims. What else did Libya represent but Clinton’s ‘white supremacist terror,’ the same terror that has been delivered across the Muslim world by western governments for the past 200 years.

In Syria an estimated half a million people have been killed in a war orchestrated by western governments and their regional ‘allies.’ Their weapons of choice, the terrorist groups they have armed and financed, have assassinated, massacred and slaughtered in every way possible, thinkable and unthinkable.

Nearly all of their victims have been Muslims. In the face of this slaughter their paymasters, procurers, and enablers have remained morally mute, save for trying to blame the Syrian government for the war they initiated.

Over decades these enormous crimes have forced millions of people out of their wrecked countries. They have fled in all directions. Many have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach the presumed safety of Europe. Boats headed in the direction of Australia, only to be turned back at sea or for the desperate people they were carrying to be locked up in ‘detention centers’ if they managed to slip through. Many sank and many men, women, and children drowned.

Australia was a willing participant in the wars that destroyed their homes yet refused them entry, abusing them as ‘queue jumpers.’ They were locked up behind razor wire in the middle of the desert so the Australian people could not see them and feel sorry for them. All were Muslims and many were children, treated as cruelly as the adults.

No matter how many millions of innocent people are killed in the Middle East, the designation of terrorist is reserved for Brenton Tarrant or the Islamic State, not for the western governments and the gangs they and their regional allies have employed in Syria to do their dirty work.

The same media that has covered up the monstrous crimes committed against Muslims in the Middle East can now talk of nothing else but the danger of white supremacists, not the far greater danger that Muslims around the world have always faced from western governments.

Brenton Tarrant, the Islamic state, Israel, the US and its ‘allies’ and the armed groups they are sponsoring in Syria are all joined at the hip. Terror is terror whether state or individual. Brenton Tarrant now has to face the consequences of what he has done. The politicians who have destroyed Middle Eastern countries don’t.

There is a law for Brenton Tarrant. There is no law for the politicians. Tarrant will be jailed for life for the murder of 50 Muslims. Politicians responsible for the deaths of millions of Muslims never seen the inside of a jail.  We have a system of international law but only in theory. In practice, when the massive crimes of the powerful are involved, it does not work. It is broken.

Claud Cockburn (father of Patrick) called the 1930s the ‘devil’s decade.’ The devils were human, of course: nationalist socialists and fascists destroying Spain, Italian fascists poison- gassing Ethiopians and Japanese fascists slaughtering Chinese. Now, since the 1990s, we have had nearly three devil’s decades.

Today’s western liberal democracies – as they are called – are doing exactly what the fascists did in the 1930s. Instead of Spain, we have Syria. Instead of Guernica, we have hadFallujah. Country after country has been destroyed by these liberal democrats in their grey suits and pastel ties. Do they really need to wear black or brown uniforms for people to recognize them for the killers that they are?

In their pursuit of power, they have no more respect for international law than the fascists and national socialists did in the 1930s. They have no respect for human life over there.

Yet when it comes to the killing of Muslims over here, they, and their outliers in the media are shocked, appalled and outraged at this senseless act of terror. Brenton Tarrant is a sick, depraved and twisted individual but so is Benjamin Netanyahu and so are the politicians responsible for the deaths of millions of Muslims in distant countries. Over there, not here, and that is what counts.

March 21, 2019 Posted by | Islamophobia, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

India shouldn’t undermine Afghan peace talks

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 17, 2019

The Press Trust of India has reported on the discussions regarding Afghanistan in Washington last week between the visiting Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and the US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad. The report carries a New Delhi dateline and is attributed to ‘official sources’.

According to the report, FS made a demarche with Khalilzad that any US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan should take place only after a new elected government takes over in Kabul and not on the basis of any interim arrangement. Separately, Hindustan Times amplified on the PTI report, citing ‘people familiar with developments’ to the effect that India is opposed to any interim government that is not ‘constitutionally mandated’ and might have members of the Taliban.

Both reports say that Khalilizad held out an assurance to FS that the security guarantee that Washington seeks from the Taliban about Afghan soil not being used for international terrorism, will also include groups that target India.

Quite obviously, Delhi considers it advantageous to disseminate the above confidential exchange in Washington at the present juncture when US-Taliban talks regarding ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’ and ceasefire is about to commence in Doha later this month.

Curiously, the Indian security establishment leaked the above information just the day after Pakistan PM Imran Khan claimed last Friday that peace in Afghanistan is ‘round the corner’ and can be expected in ‘coming days’. Imran Khan reportedly said, ‘A good government will be established in Afghanistan, a government where all Afghans will be represented. The war will end and peace will be established there.’

Kabul has reacted strongly against Imran Khan’s prognosis of a ceasefire and a new representative government forming in Kabul. Of course, the present ruling elite in Kabul fear that they may become expandable in an Afghan settlement. However, they are becoming a small minority. Whereas, a large section of Afghan opinion seems to favour the idea of ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’ and a broad-based government getting established in Kabul.

Why should India take a partisan stance in such circumstances? See an interview, here, by former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who used to be a close friend and trusted interlocutor of India.

Delhi is demanding elections in Afghanistan ignoring that security conditions need to be created first on the ground for that purpose. Clearly, the reconciliation with the Taliban who control at least half of Afghan territory is an essential pre-requisite of the situation.

Suffice to say, without the participation of the Taliban, election makes no sense — that is, for electing a government that enjoys legitimacy. On the other hand, the withdrawal of the US troops is a pre-condition that the Taliban has unwaveringly laid down for participating in any intra-Afghan dialogue — and latest reports are that the US is agreeable to meeting that pre-condition.

Clearly, Delhi’s stance that US withdrawal be postponed until a settlement is in place is neither realistic nor logical. It casts India in a spoiler’s role.

The really surprising part is that Delhi waded into the Afghan peace talks just when Kabul and Washington publicly clashed over Khalilzad’s role. The Afghan national security advisor Hamdullah Mohib has derisively called Khalilzad a ‘viceroy’ who manipulates the peace talks with a view to usurping power for himself in Kabul. Delhi should not take sides in the rift between Khalilzad and President Ashraf Ghani. It’s a dangerous gambit.

If Delhi so desperately wants to give a lifeline to Ghani’s  circle who are its allies in Kabul, the thing to do is to depute army chief Gen. Vipin Rawat to make a quick trip to Afghanistan and evaluate how an Indian intervention, replacing the US and NATO forces, can be urgently worked out before a settlement with the Taliban takes shape so that the erstwhile puppet regime of the US in Afghanistan can be transformed into an Indian surrogate.

If that is too weird a thing to be tried out, then the reasonable thing to do is to give the US-Taliban peace talks a fair chance. This may not be the ideal way of conflict resolution, but this is the only show in town and may serve the purpose of ending the senseless 17-year old war.

Delhi should have understood a long time ago that the Taliban insurgency cannot be defeated militarily and the US has been pursuing the West’s interests in Afghanistan. It should have worked with like-minded regional capitals to stabilise the Afghan situation in the interest of regional security and stability. But instead, it opted to be the US’ poodle.

Inevitably, Delhi feels let down. But that doesn’t warrant the petulance that is appearing here. When India has neither the geo-strategic clout influence nor the capacity to be prescriptive, the rational thing is to exercise strategic patience and try to come to terms with the regime that emerges out of a settlement in Afghanistan.

It is still not too late to calibrate India’s policy in a manner that stops viewing Afghanistan as the turf to wage proxy war against Pakistan. Pakistan has legitimate interests in Afghanistan — no less than what India would have in Nepal or Bhutan.

Arguably, a new thinking on our part reversing the policy trajectory adopted two decades ago in the late nineties will not only stop the enormous financial haemorrhage running into billions of dollars, but may even have the salutary effect of Pakistan reciprocating elsewhere on issues where India has core interests.

March 17, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | | Leave a comment

US Threatens Anyone Behind ICC Probe Into Its Staff With Visa Restrictions

Sputnik – 15.03.2019

The US is determined not to issue visas to individuals who are behind any the International Criminal Court investigation of US personnel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.

The new visa restrictions will not terminate Washington’s previous measures, and new economic sanctions may follow if the International Criminal Court (ICC) fails to change its course, Pompeo said during the briefing.

“I’m announcing a policy of US visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of US personnel,” Pompeo said. “This includes persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation. These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis.”

The remark comes after Pompeo issued the warning after announcing that the US would impose visa restrictions on individuals linked to the ICC’s prospective investigation into alleged war crimes committed by US personnel in Afghanistan.

March 15, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Spectre of Afghan quagmire haunts US

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 15, 2019

The Afghan national security advisor Hamdullah Mohib, while on a visit to Washington, tore into the US’ peace talks with Taliban in remarks to the American media on Thursday. Mohib alleged that US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad is keeping the Afghan govt in Kabul in the dark about the negotiations with the Taliban and that he’s plotting to replace President Ashraf Ghani.

Mohib alleged that Pakistan is dictating the trajectory of the US-Taliban negotiations and warned that there can be no peace until Islamabad ended its support for ‘non-state actors’.

The charges are indeed very serious and it is unlikely that Mohib spoke without Ghani’s approval. Mohib is Ghani’s hand-picked security aide, the fountainhead of Afghan intelligence and is wired into the Washington Beltway, where he previously served as ambassador. The US state department called in Mohib and apparently gave him a dressing down.

That there is friction between Khalilzad and Ghani has been known for sometime. Basically, there is much resistance among the Afghan elite to the US strategy to take Pakistan’s help to engage Taliban in direct negotiations and chalk out a settlement that mainstreams the insurgents.

Things have lately reached a point of no return, now that the crucial next phase of negotiations at Doha is due where the agenda includes intra-Afghan dialogue and ceasefire leading to an interim power-sharing arrangement in Kabul replacing the Ghani government.

Meanwhile, there are interest groups within the Afghan elite who either fear retrenchment or simply do not accept reconciliation with the Taliban. There is indeed widespread resentment among Afghans toward Pakistan’s blatant projection of power into their country through decades. In sum, a coalescing of anti-Taliban, anti-Pakistan sentiments is taking place.

Ghani himself has never hidden his antipathy toward Islamabad for its interference in Afghan affairs and of late has been reaching out to these anti-Taliban, anti-Pakistan groups within the Afghan elite. He feels annoyed that Washington is not insisting on the Taliban holding talks with the Afghan govt, but has instead harmonised with the Pakistani-Russian idea of an ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’ where the Afghan govt can only be a participant like myriad other Afghan groups — and not as the Taliban’s principal interlocutor.

Having said that, Ghani would also know that Khalilzad who enjoys the backing of the US foreign and security establishment, is by no means a pushover. In principle, the US can withdraw support from Ghani and make a horrible example of him but in the current fluidity, that will open a Pandora’s box and may trigger events over which Washington will have no control. With such a big US and NATO military deployment in Afghanistan, it is out of the question that the Trump administration would make any precipitate moves which might create a power vacuum in Kabul.

On the other hand, President Trump wants the troop withdrawal to begin, which was also his campaign pledge in the 2016 election. Fundamentally, the Americans may have underestimated the strong undercurrents of Afghan nationalism. Ghani suspects that the Pakistani game plan is to ultimately create conditions for an outright Taliban takeover in Kabul. There have been ample signals that he is digging in.

Suffice to say, the spectre of an Afghan quagmire is haunting the Americans. An orderly American / NATO withdrawal is possible only on the basis of a settlement with the Taliban. But Ghani and his camp insist on an ‘Afghan-led’ , ‘Afghan-controlled’ peace process — that is, direct talks between the government and the Taliban. The US’ capacity to leverage Ghani is steadily diminishing.

There are hardline militia factions who stoutly oppose any power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban and are horrified at the prospect of Pakistani hegemony over Afghanistan. They may opt for a trial of strength through force. In the circumstances, there is always the danger of a coup and usurpation of power, which of course no one wants to talk about.

The role of regional powers will be crucial in the coming period. Pakistan and Russia have a special role to play here. Both countries harbour an adversarial mindset vis-a-vis Ghani. Clearly, Pakistan and Russia are increasingly moving in tandem to create conditions for a transition in Kabul that maximises their influence. Russia has pockets of influence among the anti-Pakistani Afghan factions — for instance, former president Hamid Karzai or former NSC Hanif Atmar and erstwhile Northern Alliance leaders and so on — which can work favourably for the advancement of Pakistani interests.

Equally, Russia hopes to gain out of its links to the Taliban, which Pakistan has helped to promote, in a future regime in Kabul. Of course, both Russia and Pakistan have troubled relations with the US and will be beneficiaries of any diminution of American prestige and influence in the region. It will be an understatement to say that in the New Cold War conditions, Moscow wouldn’t mind if the US and NATO are forced to exit from the Hindu Kush in disgrace and defeat.

March 15, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

How The Western Anti-War Movement Became Poisoned Against Pakistan

By Adam Garrie – EurasiaFuture – 2019-02-27

As has been the case many times in the past, the events of the last two days have demonstrated India’s willingness to risk the consequences of committing acts of aggression against Pakistan, mainly because India remains convinced that Pakistan’s side of the story will never get a fair hearing internationally. As such, whilst Pakistan has produced photos of a downed Indian jet, complete with video confirming the lawful capture of the pilot, in addition to further footage of the pilot drinking tea with a well mannered Pakistani interrogator – there are still some who believe the totally un-evidenced and downright bizarre claims made by India in relation to the events of the past two days.

Clearly, much of the world is starting to see the truth about India’s deceptive military and even more deceptive hybrid military-political campaigns that many in Pakistan have cautioned the world against believing for decades. And yet there is one segment of western political activism that continues to turn a blind eye to the injustices facing Pakistan, whilst automatically sympathising with India. This is the self-proclaimed anti-war movement, whose name is betrayed by the fact that many otherwise consistently anti-war Europeans and North Americans, become unhinged when faced with the prospect of having to condemn India in the context of its hostility against Pakistan.

The root of this problem has comparatively little to do with India and Pakistan’s role in the Cold War rivalries between China and the Soviet Union, but instead has much to do with the events which transpired in Afghanistan between 1978 and 2001.

In 1978, the pro-Soviet People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan overthrow the Republic of Afghanistan ruled by Mohammed Daoud Khan during the Saur Revolution. This triggered an internal backlash against the new communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The indigenous backlash then triggered Kabul calling for the USSR to aid the central government against the uprising, whilst the United States firmly backed the Mujahideen rebels by supplying them with weapons, other material goods and high level combat training.

Ironically, many members of the anti-war movement in the west during the 1980s actually remained neutral or opposed the USSR’s entry into Afghanistan. This is due to the fact that while technically, the USSR was acting on the request of a UN recognised government, the American war in Vietnam was likewise technically at the “request” of the government of South Vietnam – a nation that had strong associations with the UN, without ever attaining full membership (incidentally, no Vietnamese state held a UN seat until 1977, by which time the country was unified).

In spite of these legal nuances, the American war in Vietnam was an unmitigated disaster and the Soviet war in Afghanistan likewise proved to be disastrous. It has only been in the 21st century that the next generation of western anti-war activists have gradually come to wrap themselves in the flag of The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. This is the case for several crucial reasons.

After the 9/11 attacks in the US, the anti-war movement was struggling to have its voice heard in an America that became hellbent for military revenge against anyone thought to be behind the attacks. Americans wanted revenge as was understandable, but worryingly, they were willing to get their revenge even against those who had nothing to do with 9/11 (if this sounds like India in 2019, it is because the same logic applies).

Desperate to stay relevant in a country that was overwhelmingly pro-war after 9/11, members of the US anti-war movement began to rehabilitate the People’s Republic of Afghanistan because on paper (key term), it stood for everything those accused of committing the 9/11 atrocity opposed. The People’s Republic of Afghanistan had a secular government that was far-left, anti-religious and opposed to the US backed Mujaheddin. As Osama bin Laden was once a leading figure in the Mujahideen, the US anti-war movement finally had an argument that in theory they could use in order to revive the general relevance of the anti-war movement in a pro-war age.  Their argument went as follows: “America helped the Mujahideen in which Osama bin Laden was a leading figure. By contrast, the USSR and the People’s Republic of Afghanistan opposed the Mujahideen and stood for an ideology hated by the Mujahideen. Ergo: America’s support of the Mujahideen led to 9/11 and if the USSR and their communist Afghan allies won the war, there would be no 9/11”.

Although the “logic” employed by such members of the western anti-war movement is simplistic to the point of being a straw man argument, this is actually what many anti-war westerners, as well as many knee-jerk pro-Russian international commentators have said and continue to say when trying to find an ideological/pseudo-strategic link between the events of the 1980s and the post-9/11 anti-war movement. Ironically, modern Russia has welcomed peace talks with the Taliban, whilst perhaps not surprisingly, few in Russia now think that their war in Afghanistan was a good idea and almost no one in modern Russia thinks that the war was properly executed. In this sense, the western anti-war movement sounds a lot more like the old USSR than many scholars and even many policy makers in modern Russia.

Be that as it may, due to the fact that Pakistan was an opponent of People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, many of these same anti-war westerners continue to blame Pakistan for the failure of the supposedly “good” communist Afghan government to beat the Mujahideen. What such people fail to realise is that Pakistan’s support for those opposing the communist regime in Afghanistan had nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with Pakistan’s national survival.

Between 1947 and the present day, literally every Afghan government whether monarchical, republican, communist or theocratic, has refused to recognise Pakistan’s otherwise internationally recognised western border along the Durand Line. As such, Pakistan feared that the revolutionary communist regime next door would act even more vociferously in pursuing Afghanistan’s notorious expansionist tendencies than even previous Afghan regimes. There were several logical reasons which led Pakistan’s leadership to this deduction. First of all, as a country with good relations with the USSR’s main rivals of the time (China and the United States), Pakistan feared that a Soviet victory in Afghanistan would lead an exuberant, emboldened and war hardened Kabul regime to expand its territory at the expense of legally defined Pakistani territory. Secondly, the communist ideology of the Afghanistan after 1978 sought to disguise traditional anti-Pakistan Pashtun ultra-nationalism (aka separatism) in order to create an old fashioned “Greater Pashtunistan” under the guise of “proletarian expansionism”. In this sense, from Pakistan’s perspective, it was better to ally with rebels who supported an Islamic political ideology which in theory would minimise notorious Afghan expansionism aimed at Pakistan, than it would have been to go soft on a secular Kabul regime that was willing to use ethno-nationalism as a means of spreading communism to a Pakistan which had no appetite for becoming a communist state against its will.

As such, Pakistan opposed the communist regime in Afghanistan not only for these practical rather than ideological reasons, but also because domestic terrorists seeking to destroy the Pakistani state were sheltered by communist Kabul, therefore making it clear that Afghanistan was prepared to harbour individuals and groups whose stated goal was the overthrow of state institutions in Pakistan. In this sense, Pakistan was not “in love” with the Mujahideen, but was instead looking to strategically protect itself against a clear threat on what was then, a widely exposed north-western border.

As a Cold War ally of the USSR, India had multiple vested interests in supporting the People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. First of all, India’s relations with Afghanistan have always been centred on New Delhi’s desire to gain leverage against Pakistan through the use of hybrid threats originating from or being sheltered on Afghan soil. Secondly, as in the 1980s Afghanistan shared a border with the USSR, a grand Soviet, India, Afghanistan alliance could have helped to economically isolate Pakistan in an age before Pakistan’s all-weather friend China became the economic superpower that it is today. As such, the idea of a northern CPEC lifeline for Pakistan in the 1980s, would have been virtually unimaginable.

And yet, these deeply important details seem to be lost on a western anti-war movement that especially since 9/11, has partly internalised the western far-right and Israel’s Islamophobia. In doing so, many in the western anti-war movement have reached the simplistic conclusion that “secular terrorists and murderous secular regimes are automatically good, whilst anything Islamic is automatically a reactionary and pro-terrorism”.

Whilst this shift in the western anti-war movement towards secular supremacy aimed at Islamic movements or governments with Islamic (particularly Sunni Islamic) characteristics was a phenomenon based on the west’s own post-9/11 mass hysteria, it had the effect of helping India to revive its own seemingly dead Cold War narrative which claims that “secular leftists of the world and Hindus of the world must unite against CIA backed Sunni Muslim extremists”. Forgetting the fact that as the 21st century moved on, India grew closer to the US, further from Russia and continues to maintain hostility against China – this narrative continues to poison many otherwise dutiful anti-war westerners against Pakistan.

This is the case because based on their total misreading of events in Afghanistan in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, far too many western anti-war activists think that there is in fact an unbroken alliance of Mujahideen style groups, modern Pakistan and the CIA and that this alliance can only be counterbalanced by a mythical alliance that includes “sometimes Hindu/sometimes secular India”, a Russia that the western left imagines to still be the old USSR and any country in western Eurasia (Syria and Iran in particular) that has any dispute with actual Sunni extremists (mainly Daesh) who happen to have nothing to do with Pakistan.

The fact of the matter is that a mixture of the USSR’s rehabilitation among the western far-left, a gross misunderstanding of Pakistan’s position in the 1980s and Indian propaganda that is aimed at both the western far-right and simultaneously at the ultra-secular western far-left, has poisoned the anti-war movement against Pakistan. This is all the more reason why Pakistan needs a 24/7 news channel to help dispel these canards.

February 28, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Results of the First Round of Talks Between the USA and the Taliban

By Natalya Zamarayeva – New Eastern Outlook – 11.02.2019

January 2019 saw the conclusion of the first round of talks between the USA and the Taliban, which took place in Qatar. The Afghan Taliban and the official representatives of the USA reached preliminary agreement on three key issues:

– the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan within 18 months;

– an exchange of prisoners;

– the lifting of the travel ban on Taliban leaders, and their removal from the UN’s blacklist.

In turn the Taliban agreed, among other things, not to allow terrorist organisations, including Al Qaeda and DAESH or any other armed grouping to carry out attacks on Afghan civilians or authorities, the USA, or any of its allies.

The second round of talks is scheduled for the end of February 2019. The USA and the Taliban plan to sign an official agreement on the above points. The agreement is expected to be fairly strict. The Taliban delegation will be headed by its lead negotiator, Abdul Ghani Baradar.

After the above steps have been completed (in 2021), Afghanistan will embark on an internal regulation process, which will involve two stages:

– the entry into effect of a general ceasefire between the opposing sides;

– the formation of a temporary government, to be elected for a term of three years: the Taliban will nominate its own representatives for election to this body;

– the Taliban propose a reform of the Afghan police, including local police authorities (which have been accused of being extremely corrupt and of intimidating the public).

The Taliban’s leaders have declared that they are renouncing their claim to exclusive power in Afghanistan and that they recognise that peace in Afghanistan needs to be an inclusive process. They also promise to seek ways to involve the Afghan government in the peace and reconciliation process, and also to act in conjunction with existing authorities (whereas, during the period of the so-called Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, from 1996-2001, they imposed a strict form of Sharia law).

The talks between the USA and the Taliban (December 2018- January 2019) are a small part of the larger Afghan dialogue process, which has, traditionally, involved four parties: the Taliban, the USA, the Afghan National Unity Government, and Pakistan.

In addition to the US troops and the armed opposition, made up of Taliban militants, there is a third party in the Afghan conflict: the Afghan national security forces, which seek to protect the country’s constitution and its head of state, President Ashraf Ghani.

But for the whole duration of the anti-terrorist campaign in Afghanistan, from 2001 to date, the Taliban have refused to take part in any direct talks with representatives of the National Unity Government, which they consider to be illegitimate. Ashraf Ghani has been highly critical of this stance, which has forced him and his government into the position of an onlooker, while the Taliban and the USA determine the country’s fate between them.

Washington has declared that its strategic goal, in its talks with the Taliban, is to get the Taliban and the Afghan National Unity Government to sit around the negotiating table together. In other words, to “force” the Taliban to accept the country’s Constitution and current state institutions. According to the White House, this process will take 18 months, and will be accompanied by the progressive withdrawal of US troops.

According to the White House’s roadmap, with the beginning of the dialogue, Afghanistan will enter into a new phase: an internal regulation process. Which raises the obvious question – will that process actually take place, and, if so, when, and under what circumstances? The Pushtuns are a hospitable people, but they keep their word. The lack of any direct dialogue between the Taliban and the National Unity Government will result in either an extension of the US military presence in Afghanistan, or the outbreak of a new civil war like that in the early 1990s.

The talks have also revealed certain specific characteristics relating to the armed opposition in today’s Afghanistan. In general, that opposition is made up of the Taliban. But there are other forces operating in the country, including militants from Al-Qaeda, DAESH, Uighur separatists from the Xinjiang region of China, militants from the Pakistani Taliban, and various armed groups from the Central Asian countries and the Caucasus. The Afghan Taliban, which dominates the armed opposition, has been able to persuade the Al-Qaeda militants to pledge their loyalty to the Taliban’s leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada. As a result, in recent years the Taliban has been reinforced by Al-Qaeda militants serving in its ranks. This helps to explain how the Taliban is now able to control 60% of the country’s territory and carry out almost daily attacks on Afghan security forces and government officials.

As for DAESH, its leaders remain subordinate to their Emir and refuse to accept the leadership of Hibatullah Akhundzada, which results in a split within the armed opposition in Afghanistan.

The fourth party in the dialogue process is Pakistan. As one of the organisers of the talks between the USA and the Taliban, Pakistan has received assurances from the Afghan Taliban that, in the future, the latter will cut its links with Pakistani Taliban militants based in Afghanistan, insurgents from the Pakistani province of Balochistan and the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and that it will refrain from acting against Pakistan’s interests.

The talks between the USA and the Taliban demonstrate that the two parties are serious about bringing an end to the internecine conflict in Afghanistan. But it is also evident that all the parties are determined to stick to their initial positions. The parties exchange spoken declarations, but they show no will to take any constructive steps or even move towards a compromise.

Natalia Zamarayeva, Ph.D (History), is a Senior Research Fellow, Pakistan section, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

February 11, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Who’s afraid of intra-Afghan dialogue?

Opening of two-day talks of Taliban and Afghan opposition leaders at the President Hotel in Moscow on February 5, 2019 (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP)
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | February 7, 2019

The two-day conference of mainstream Afghan politicians and Taliban representatives in Moscow on February 5-6 becomes a landmark event in the peace process.

Principally, it signifies the commencement of the ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’, a process that was struggling to be born. This process can be expected to galvanise the Afghan peace talks. Some of the most senior and influential Afghan leaders actively participated in the Moscow conference, including former President Hamid Karzai, stalwarts of the erstwhile Northern Alliance Atta Muhammad Nur, Yunus Qanooni and Muhammad Mohaqiq, Ahmad Wali Massoud and former National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar.

The embittered Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani  has been reduced to a rump. It has censured the event in Moscow, but its own growing isolation is self-evident. Ghani is now openly critical of the dynamics of the US-Taliban talks, won’t associate with any ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’ and threatens to reject any peace formula that is reached without him.

Ghani’s mindset is — ‘After me the Deluge.’ His preoccupation is about his own political future. Simply put, panic (that he is at the end of the road) is mixing with bewilderment (that he is in reality so easily expendable) and anger (that the US is inexorably disengaging from him). In fact, President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday completely omitted any reference to the Kabul set-up, leave alone Ghani himself.

The stunning outcome of the Moscow conference in the nature of a Joint Declaration highlights that the native Afghan genius for consensus-making has far from extinguished and can still provide the alchemy for reaching a peace settlement.

The key elements of the ‘nine point approach’ outlined in the Joint Declaration are the agreement on the ‘values’ that effectively provide the guiding principles of a post-settlement order — an Islamic system; an inclusive polity; a broad-based government with representation for all ethnic groups; assertion of national sovereignty; scrupulous neutrality vis-a-vis regional and international conflicts; adherence to Afghan national and religious values; and a unified and single policy.

The three striking templates of the document are the demand for the ‘complete withdrawal of foreign forces’, the political commitment to protect the rights of women and the entire people, and the openness to seeking international assistance for Afghan reconstruction. Taken together, the joint declaration gives the blueprint of the terms of an Afghan settlement.

Russia has been the patron behind the conference kickstarting an ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’. Conceivably, Russia took such an initiative in tandem with Pakistan — and, possibly, with Iran and China as well. Importantly, Russian diplomacy was successful in getting an impressive array of  Afghan politicians cutting across the spectrum of opinion to come on board. The new platform is destined to gain traction and provide an enduring underpinning for peacemaking and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Inevitably, the dialectic involving the US-Taliban talks and the new platform of ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’ will be crucial. Ideally, they should be mutually reinforcing. But life is real. Much depends on the US’ intentions. Washington cannot but be aware that the Ghani government lacks legitimacy and an interaction between it and the Taliban (assuming the latter agrees to it) is increasingly meaningless.

On the other hand, Ghani also enjoys the covert backing of the hardline elements within the US establishment some of whom are unhappy with Trump’s outlook of putting to sudden death America’s ‘endless wars’.

Ideally, therefore, it is in the US interest to widen the gyre of the peace process that has begun in Moscow and create synergy for Washington’s direct engagement with the Taliban, which is proceeding on a parallel track. The regional and international opinion will be supportive of such a constructive approach.

However, for this to happen, the US too should have a unified policy. There are disturbing signs that the US military-industrial complex is far from done with the ‘endless war’ in Afghanistan. Trump himself is buffeted by cross currents. He vaguely sounded placatory in his address to the US Congress on Tuesday by hinting at the need of continued counterterrorist operations with a reduced military presence.

Whereas, the resounding message out of the Moscow conference is that mainstream Afghan opinion identifies with the Taliban’s longstanding demand for complete vacation of foreign occupation in lieu of commitment that no extremist group will be allowed to operate out of Afghan soil. The US should heed this profound Afghan craving for national independence and sovereignty.

Indeed, the Moscow conference underscored that the Afghan conflict is at its core a fratricidal strife (which foreign powers took advantage of) and it can be ended only through a genuine, free-wheeling intra-Afghan dialogue. The Russians have shown that just by being an honest broker, the Americans could as well have kickstarted the intra-Afghan dialogue a long time ago — arguably, even when the late Richard Holbrooke was around. So much destruction and suffering and loss of lives could have been spared if only there was sincerity of purpose.

The Moscow conference has exposed the self-serving Western notion that the Afghans are inherently incapable of molding the destiny of their nation. That such an impressive outcome of consensus-making was possible when Afghans were left to confabulate among themselves for two days only goes to show that the so-called international community is more the problem than the solution.

(Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai (R) and Head of Political Office of the Taliban Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai briefing the media at the Moscow conference, February 5, 2019)

The Moscow conference agreed that ‘intra-Afghan dialogue must continue on regular basis’ and that the next session be held in Doha, Qatar, ‘as soon as possible.’ The next round of the US-Taliban talks is also due to take place in Doha in February focusing on the interim government and ceasefire. Several top participants at the Moscow conference voiced support for the formation of an interim government. The time has come to address the issue.

The big question is whether the US is willing to let go of Afghanistan, finally. Admittedly, the geopolitics of Afghanistan becomes a compelling factor for the Pentagon, which is keen to retain the military bases in the emerging New Cold War conditions. Besides, there is no dearth of potential deal breakers. Persuading the present rulers in Kabul to make way is going to be a tough challenge. Ghani’s hope lies in offering the Taliban a few slots in his government. But that formula won’t work.

The US should not encourage Ghani’s vaulting ambition to wield power for a foreseeable future. Conditions were far more complicated in 2001 when the Northern Alliance government led by Burhanuddin Rabbani was persuaded to step down and an interim government led by Karzai took over in Kabul at the insistence of Washington.

On the other hand, the Moscow conference has shown that inter-Afghan amity and reconciliation is a realistic goal. Karzai can still play a leadership role in any orderly transition in Kabul. Karzai led the way at the Moscow conference.

February 7, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Finally, Washington is Now Law-Bound to Compensate its Victims!

By Grete Mautner – New Eastern Outlook – 07.02.2019

Since most of us are aware of the way Washington approaches its alleged fight against terrorism, murdering tens of thousands of civilians in the process, it seems that the relatives of all those who perished under American bombs in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria may finally get their day in court. To be specific, it has recently been reported that a US court found Damascus liable in the death of American journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed during the shelling of Baba Amr district of Homs back in 2012.

It was stated that Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia chose to double the typical compensation that the relatives of the deceased journalist would receive, bringing it up to 302.5 million dollars.

This decision was made in spite of the fact that in his interview for NBC News, Syria’s president Bashar Assad made it clear that:

“It’s a war and she came illegally to Syria. She worked with the terrorists, and because she came illegally, she’s been responsible of everything that befalls on her.”

As most of you must be aware, the US legal system is based on the so-called common law principle that America inherited from the United Kingdom. In this situation it’s only natural to ask: could the above mentioned US District Court decision force Washington to pay billions of dollars in compensations to the families of those who are being unscrupulously referred to in the West as “collateral damage”? As it’s pretty clear for everyone that a precedent has been set. Moreover, on numerous occasions, US authorities would be forced to officially describe a great many of the air raids they launched as erroneous, thus taking full responsibility for the civilian death toll those attacks inflicted.

And the number of such air strikes is growing by the day! Thus, in Afghanistan alone, there’s been an unprecedented increase in the number of civilians killed by the US Air Force, while Washington pretends to be interested in negotiations with the Taliban. Over the last two months, at least 10 of such erroneous strikes were reported, resulting in 68 people perishing. Over the last two weeks alone, some 35 peaceful Afghan citizens would die in the course of US air raids. A lot of attention should be paid to the most recent incident when a US military drone murdered 16 civilians in a single attack in the Afghan province of Helmand in late January. On the next day, the funeral procession organized by the relatives of the victims of the first strike came under fire of yet another US drone, which resulted in 13 more people perishing. So far, the Pentagon failed to provide any intelligible comment on the bloodbath its people created, while only making a remark that it was going to launch an investigation. However, as it became evident from hundreds of similar investigations, nobody in the US armed forces is ever going to be held accountable for such crimes.

In Syria, similar air raids have become a daily occurrence. For instance, as it’s been reported by the Kurdish TV-channel Rudaw, a recent air strike launched by the Pentagon in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate resulted in numerous civilian casualties, including women and children.

This attack took place on January 23, when local refugees would try to flee advancing militant groups, when they were hit by the US Air Force. A week later, 11 civilians perished in yet another attack launched by the US-led coalition in the same province. Earlier, in mid-December, a similar strike in Deir ez-Zor left 17 civilians dead.

To make the matters worse, the US-led coalition has been repeatedly accused of using white phosphorus munitions in its attacks against residential areas; which resulted in Syrian authorities filing a request to the UN last year so this blatant violation of international law would be properly investigated.

On January 19, Syria’s officials demanded the United Nations to put an end to the onslaught that the US-led coalition has been carrying on for months across numerous Syrian towns.

However, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are not the only states that fell victims of the unscrupulous bombing raids of the US armed forces.

So it’s safe to say that countless lawyers across different countries may now have their hands full of work, filing lawsuits to numerous US courts to represent the families where people felt victims to American bombs.

If the family of Mary Colvin alone managed to receive 300 million dollars in compensation, it’s safe to say that the sky is the limit if those lawsuits start piling up across all of the US District Courts.

Grete Mautner is an independent researcher and journalist from Germany.

February 7, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

India wades into Afghan peace talks

(Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov greeting Taliban officials at Moscow peace conference, November 2018)
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | February 1, 2019

The Ministry of External Affairs spokesman’s remark on Thursday in New Delhi that “it is important that the presidential election in Afghanistan takes place as per the schedule” is the first major Indian comment on the current peace talks in Qatar between the United States and the Taliban.

Whether that was an off-the-cuff remark or not remains unclear, but if it has been a considered statement, it puts India at odds with the peace talks in Qatar, which is working toward commencing the intra-Afghan dialogue, forming an interim government in Kabul and declaring a nation-wide ceasefire. Arguably, India’s strong advocacy of the charade of a presidential election in Afghanistan at this juncture is tantamount to the debunking of what is happening at the Qatar talks.

The point is, the Indian stance is virtually identifying with the ‘rejectionist’ camp of Afghan opinion, which fears that the reconciliation with the Taliban will mean the end of the road for them. This camp principally consists of President Ashraf Ghani and his circle – his newfound associate Amrullah Saleh, in particular – who are justifiably nervous about their own political future if the peace talks at Qatar advance toward the formation of an interim government.

But why should India try to bolster their career prospects? It may create misperceptions that India has ulterior motives. Clearly, the conditions in Afghanistan do not allow the holding of the presidential election. Even if the election is held, its credibility will be in serious doubt. The result of the election is almost inevitably going to be hotly contested. Quite obviously, the recent parliamentary election tells a sordid story. The political legitimacy of the “victor” in any presidential election will remain highly suspect. Even Ghani’s government was formed 5 years ago only after protracted efforts by the US to work out a compromise formula of power sharing.

In fact, much of the present crisis in Afghanistan is to be directly attributed to the weak government in Kabul that lacked political legitimacy and popular support, and to its leadership that is widely perceived as an American concoction. What is the point in repeating such a futile experiment? As it is, Afghanistan is hopelessly fragmented and another Ghani as its next figurehead and another puppet regime in Kabul can only spell doom for the country.

The fact of the matter is that the Afghan government is not at all representative of the nation. The latest Russian initiative to convene a conference of the Taliban representatives and prominent Afghan politicians in Moscow next week underscores the political undercurrents in Afghanistan today. Reuters has quoted a Russian official as saying, “Senior Taliban leaders and prominent Afghan politicians will travel to Moscow for a day-long summit. At this sensitive stage, it was best to not have Afghan government officials at the table.”

Interestingly, the Afghan personalities who may take part in the conference in Moscow on this coming Tuesday include former President Hamid Karzai. Whatever the Russian motivations might be in taking such an initiative, it only highlights that Ghani’s camp is fast becoming irrelevant to any serious intra-Afghan dialogue involving the Taliban and other Afghan groups.

(Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi with Russian Special Representative on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, Islamabad, Jan 29, 2019)

It goes without saying that the Russian initiative is in tandem with Pakistan following the visit by the Russian special representative on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov to Islamabad on January 29. Ironically, Russia is facilitating the first round of intra-Afghan dialogue with Pakistan’s tacit support and Taliban’s readiness to participate in it. Ghani is not going to like that he has been bypassed and ignored. But then, if the international community has not so far questioned his locus standii, it was out of decorum and/or courtesy, but a time has come when Russians obviously decided that enough is enough.

Ghani was entirely an American creation and he lacks a support base. His tactic is to gather around him a cabal of figures who, like him, also stand to lose in peace settlement. He may try to be a ‘spoiler’ but ultimately, he will be overtaken by events and cast aside. Simply put, he is of no more use to the Americans who will discard him sooner rather than later. The case of Saleh is equally pathetic. The Americans built up Saleh for certain specific assignments related to security and they may cut him loose once he ceases to be of use to them. Unsurprisingly, Ghani and Saleh are now left with no option but to blow the nationalist bugle to rally support among patriotic Afghans, but that won’t impress anybody – neither the Afghans nor the international community.

Why should India get embroiled in the shenanigans of the ‘rejectionist’ camp in Kabul? True, the Modi government too would have a sense of ‘betrayal’ – that after having been the US’ loyal supporter in Afghanistan, India finds itself in a cul-de-sac. But the fault lies entirely with Delhi. The Modi government viewed Afghanistan through the prism of India-Pakistan tensions and Kashmir and the zero sum mindset has damaged Indian interests and brought about the current isolation.

Without doubt, President Trump intends to withdraw the troops from Afghanistan. And without American support, the roof will come crashing down on the head of Ghani, Saleh, et al, within no time. Delhi should be realistic about its capabilities and, more importantly, be mindful of its limitations. Does India have the grit and the resources to swim against the current? Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Let bygones be bygones. Delhi should not compound the folly. The prudent thing will be to refrain from being a ‘spoiler’ at this sensitive juncture. Let the peace talks proceed ahead. What is needed on India’s part is strategic patience. Its Manichean fear that Pakistan is about to conquer Kabul has no basis. Pakistan knows Afghans only too well not to harbor any such illusions.

On the other hand, Afghanistan is India’s neighbor and there is abiding goodwill toward our country on the part of the Afghan people. A new beginning is always possible and India can safeguard its core interests by building bridges with the new regime.

February 1, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment