On November 15 during the 7th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA-VII) in Ashgabat Turkey, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia signed an agreement providing for a major international trade and transport corridor stretching from Turkey to Afghanistan via the post-Soviet Central Asian republics, named the “Lapis Lazuli Corridor.” While many practical problems remain, the development and operation of such a railway corridor has enormous implications for the countries along its route, particularly Afghanistan.
For long-time observers of Afghanistan, déjà vu happens with such frequency that one feels trapped in a never-ending farcical nightmare.
Recent pro-Iranian and Syrian regime remarks by an Afghan Shiite leader may attract regional sectarian rivalries to Afghanistan, and incite more violence and terror by the Islamic State terrorist group in the war-torn country, analysts warned.
As per Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reports, US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, and Defence Secretary, James Mattis, are expected to visit Pakistan shortly, seeking cooperation from it in their war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The visit comes after the US announced the completion of deployment of an additional 3,000 troops in Afghanistan and its readiness to commence joint operations with Afghan forces. An additional 2,000 troops from NATO nations are still awaited. Thus, Afghanistan would have over 15,000 NATO troops.
Currently, all eyes are on the Afghan government as to whether or not it will be able to deliver on its promise of providing free and fair parliamentary and district elections, currently scheduled for July 7, 2018. This past week has been a turbulent period, with President Ashraf Ghani sacking the chairman of the influential Independent Elections Commission (IEC), Najibullah Ahmadzai, after a flurry of criticisms over his performance. This development is the latest blow to the IEC, whose image had already been suffering due to accusations of nepotism during the hiring process, internal divisions, and individuals using their post for personal and political gain. Elections observers have nonetheless called on the government to expedite the selection of a new chairman so that the election process stays on course.
It has been three months since US President Donald Trump announced on Aug. 21 his administration’s official strategy for South Asia in general and for Afghanistan in particular. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s immediate response was one of optimism and support.
The strategic initiative displayed by India when it moved its first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port has been well established. Bypassing Pakistan has changed the narrative of the region. Simultaneously has been the opening of an air corridor between the two countries. All this, while the US increases deployment of its troops, adopts a new strategy for South Asia, seeking to end the war in Afghanistan on favourable terms, while applying pressure on Pakistan to curb support to terror groups. This movement of wheat has also put Pakistan in a quandary and has made it reassess its policies and influence in its immediate neighborhood.
In Cold War era folklore it used to be said that the supply of stinger missiles to the Afghan Mujahideen, in the 1980s, was a masterstroke by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The ravages of a seemingly endless war have kept the United States mired in South Asia for over 16 years. In August, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed a new solution to the intractable conflict in Afghanistan. The new strategy would focus not on meeting a specific deadline but rather on achieving the conditions necessary to bring peace to the war-torn country. To that end, Trump urged India to play a greater role in Afghanistan's economic development. He also had a few choice words for Pakistan.
Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) comprised the largest and most influential generation in history, particularly in the US, where I migrated many decades ago. But since I returned to my native Afghanistan to work as an interpreter, I have wondered, “Was my version of the Baby Boomer generation in Afghanistan a force for good or evil?”