Heart of Asia 2016: Phony Peacemaking for Afghanistan?

Wednesday, 07 December 2016 07:59 Written by

Modern Afghanistan has been ravaged and damaged by terrorism as well as regional and external powers’ geopolitical interests, starting in 1979 with the Soviet Union’s intervention. The same problems were further heightened with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)’s post-9/11 war against terrorism in general and al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden (until his death in 2014) in particular. Due to a long war sparked by the ISAF invasion, Afghanistan has become entrapped in myriad political, economic, and security problems. It has also become one of the world’s major refugee-generating countries.

It's time for America to get out of Afghanistan

Tuesday, 06 December 2016 04:04 Written by

After 15 years and $115 billion of taxpayer dollars spent on failed “nation-building,” it’s time for the US to let go of Afghanistan. (The actual “total cost of war and reconstruction” which includes all US military spending, has been estimated at $783 billion by the Cost of War project at Brown University.)

Afghanistan’s security crisis is fueling new opportunities for Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other extremist groups, Afghan and American officials say, voicing concerns that the original American mission in the country — removing its use as a terrorist haven — is at risk.

Cold War adversaries are back again

Sunday, 04 December 2016 04:02 Written by

This time the fear of Violent None State Actors (VNSA) played key role in bringing cold war adversaries the United States of America (USA) and Russian Federation close over the track of rivalry.

The Afghan Taliban are facing a cash crisis with donors unwilling to bankroll an insurgency whose victims are increasingly civilians rather than foreign troops, according to several members of the movement.

Mullah Rahmatullah Kakazada, a senior diplomat under the Taliban regime, told the Guardian that the Taliban was in an increasingly precarious financial position despite chalking up several dramatic battlefield successes in the last year.

“The war is becoming unpopular because of all the bad publicity on civilian casualties,” he said. “These people who give money don’t want to spend it on mines that kill children.”

The Taliban have long collected donations from sympathisers around the region, including wealthy Afghan and Arab businessmen in the Gulf.

But now the movement’s finances are so weakened that some of its most seriously injured fighters are no longer welcome at Pakistan’s private hospitals because they cannot settle their bills, according to Taliban sources.

Kakazada said the departure of most foreign combat troops since 2014, and the outbreak of bloody infighting between rival Taliban groups, had weakened the legitimacy of a war the Taliban still portray as a struggle against “foreign occupation”.

Although not a participant in the 15-year insurgency, Kakazada remains close to the movement’s leaders. His views echo those of active Taliban officials who spoke to the Guardian.

One senior figure in the Taliban’s leadership said donations had first slumped after the announcement in July last year that the founder of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, had died years previously.

The death in a US drone attack of his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, this year further damaged the movement’s fundraising efforts because Mansoor, a well-connected businessman, personally dealt with many of the donors.

The Taliban’s other main source of funds, the taxing of economic activity in areas they control – especially the massive opium economy of southern Afghanistan – has also been disrupted by infighting.

In the summer the movement’s current leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, an Islamic law specialist derided in some quarters for his lack of combat experience, clashed with Mullah Ibrahim Sadar, the head of the military council, who is based in opium-rich Helmand.

A Taliban source said Ibrahim defied demands to send cash to the Quetta Shura, as the Taliban’s leadership council is known, and in a letter taunted Akhundzada for living in safety in Pakistan.

“Helmand used to send lots of funds to Quetta Shura in the Mansoor era. But Ibrahim has stopped sending money and instead told Akhundzada to move to Helmand,” a Taliban intelligence officer said.

Kakazada said there was widespread agreement among senior figures that the Taliban must try to negotiate an end to the conflict with the Afghan government, although many of its foot soldiers disagree.

“The fighters on the ground have no idea, but 90% of people in leadership positions believe it is not going to plan and we are not going to repeat the 1990s again,” he said, referring to the Taliban’s earlier conquest of almost the entire country.

He said some of the Taliban’s recent successes, such as overrunning the city of Kunduz, did not mean the movement could win an outright military victory.

“For the Kunduz operation the Taliban prepared for one year just to take a city for one week. Afghanistan has 34 provinces so it would take 34 years to take the country for just one week,” he said.

“We don’t have momentum. But the government can’t win either. It’s a stalemate but we are using all our energies on fighting and not thinking about peace.”

Kakazada said there was a strong peace lobby within the Taliban, including under the leadership of Mansoor, seen by some analysts as a hardliner on talks. “He knew that war was not in the interest of Afghanistan and he was serious about starting a dialogue between Afghans,” Kakazada said.

Mansoor endorsed a 2013 strategy drawn up by Kakazada that called for talks with the Afghan government and efforts to “reach an understanding” with the international community.

Fifteen years after the United States first scattered the Taliban with high-altitude bombing, the battlefield gains achieved by tens of thousands of U.S. troops are in jeopardy from a resurgent Taliban. 

President Trump and the War in Afghanistan

Monday, 28 November 2016 04:17 Written by

Operation Enduring Freedom kicked off 15 years ago on October 7, 2001; today, roughly 8,400 U.S. and NATO troops are still engaged in assisting Afghan partner forces in their war against resurgent militant threats. As a stark reminder of the dangerous landscape that exists in Afghanistan, two American Special Forces soldiers were killed recently while assisting Afghan commando forces in an operation to thwart a Taliban offensive on Kunduz city.

Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai may have retired, but he definitely hasn’t left the building. The Afghan monarch, who served as president for two terms after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, handed over the reigns to the war-torn country to his democratically-elected, albeit disputed, successors in 2014.

President Trump and the War in Afghanistan

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 04:41 Written by

Operation Enduring Freedom kicked off 15 years ago on October 7, 2001; today, roughly 8,400 U.S. and NATO troops are still engaged in assisting Afghan partner forces in their war against resurgent militant threats. As a stark reminder of the dangerous landscape that exists in Afghanistan, two American Special Forces soldiers were killed recently while assisting Afghan commando forces in an operation to thwart a Taliban offensive on Kunduz city.

Afghanistan’s water-sharing puzzle

Tuesday, 22 November 2016 04:20 Written by

Pakistan and Iran have always had historical claims over the water resources of Afghanistan. These claims have always been rejected by Afghanistan. The chaotic politics of water between Afghanistan and its neighbors has a long history, due to the lack of water-sharing agreements between them.