A recent conference on regional security issues in the western Afghanistan town of Herat was catalysed by an angry exchange between US political-military analyst on South Asia Christine Fair and retired Brigadier Saad Mohammed from Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, on the nature of the Pakistan army, which Fair variously characterised as being a “hyena” and “a vulture feeding on a carcass".
Admittedly, Fair is a severe critic of the Pakistan Army, about which she has recently written a book, and doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind about the colossal - and nefarious - influence it wields on Pakistani polity.
As the tide turns against Islamic State (IS) forces in the battlegrounds of the Middle East, some veteran jihadis are expected to return to their former stomping grounds in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan near China’s western borders. And when they do, they will be welcomed by an advance party of fighters from Iraq and Syria who moved to eastern Afghanistan last year to help Taliban defectors establish the “Khorasan governorate”.
Taliban fighters posed for the camera, their shawls and bandannas covering their identities but not their jubilation, as they captured the main roundabout in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz early this month in what could have been called “operation hoist the flag and pull out a smartphone.”
Dostum’s military adventurism in northern Afghanistan is not to assist Kabul in its war against the Taliban.
Make no mistake about it, Afghan First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum’s military adventurism in northern Afghanistan is not to assist Kabul in its war against the Taliban, but to cement his own foothold in his home turf. Dostum sees the writing on the wall for the future of the fledgling central government, brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014. Kabul is limping on from a bloody 2016 fighting season, and to General Dostum its future looks bleak.
On the day before Eid al-Adha, the high Islamic holiday, several dozen Afghans stood in the blistering heat to try to obtain one of their government’s modernized, biometrics-based passports. The updated travel documents are intended to meet international standards for identification, and are aimed at preventing fraud. But many doubt the Afghan government’s good intentions: Last year, their old passports were rendered invalid and the new ones compulsory, leading some to assume they’re simply a money-making scheme.
In early October, an international donors’ conference hosted by the European Union (EU) in Brussels declared a US $ 15. 2 billion aid package for Afghanistan to run till 2020, almost at par with the quantum of such funding provided so far. “A remarkabl(y) impressive amount,” said the EU in a self-congratulatory statement.
The Afghan government and the Taliban have restarted peace negotiations in Qatar. At least two secret meetings have been held in September and October, the first such reported talks since peace negotiations ended between the two sides after the revelation of the death of the Taliban’s reclusive leader, Mullah Omar, in 2015.
Mirwais, an Afghan asylum seeker has been in the Austria for four years. He is now one of many there, living in fear of being deported.
"If the authorities deport me, my life is over ... The centre of my life is here," said the 32-year-old Kabul native, who speaks German well and has been working as an interpreter in Austria.
From a Pakistani perspective, 2016 has been a tumultuous year for its relationship with its western neighbour. First, the Pakistan-led Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), meant to draw in the US and China along with Afghanistan while excluding India, drew a blank. Then, Pakistan was left fulminating as a new arrangement began to take shape between Afghanistan, India and the US in the form of a trilateral dialogue. While new equations were being formulated at the diplomatic level, the situation on the Durand Line worsened – the Pak-Afghan border transit points at Torkham and Chaman faced multiple bouts of closure, infuriating the Afghan government and also adversely impacting the livelihood of people on both sides.
During the first two presidential debates, did you notice that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump ever uttered the word “Afghanistan”? One wonders how the 8,400 U.S. military personnel still serving in America’s longest war felt about that. When the two candidates vying to be commander in chief are not asked to state their views on a war the United States is still fighting and feel no necessity to raise it themselves, it tells you a lot about the bizarre political campaign we’ve been saddled with this year, as well as the cavalier way our country now regards a conflict we seem readier to forget than to end.