Category Archives: Afghanistan

M.A. Shiwani: Of Wars and Contractors

Deploying mercenaries in Afghanistan will not only roll back the progress that has been made over the past decade, but it will also severely threaten future prospects for peace …

As the Trump Administration moves closer to releasing its policy review on Afghanistan, it has recruited Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater (now Academi) and Stephen Feinberg, owner of DynCorp International to assist the Pentagon in strategy formulation. DynCorp and Blackwater are both Private Military Companies (PMCs). In other words they are mercenaries. In accordance with its manifesto, the administration wishes to curtail the deployment of additional US troops in Afghanistan. In response, Prince and Feinberg have, rather unsurprisingly, presented a proposal that substitutes US troops with personnel provided by PMCs. Even though the Pentagon was recently given permission to deploy more troops into Afghanistan, Trump aides are adamant not to use the same policies that failed under the last two presidents and are thus seriously considering the proposal put forward by Prince and Feinberg.

Let us briefly go through the shadowy history of the United States’ use of private armies and military contractors. After the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, it was tasked with rebuilding the Afghan National Police (ANP) to fight the Taliban. Since Iraq and the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was slowly moving up the national security agenda, the US wanted to exit Afghanistan as quickly as possible while also using the bare minimum amount of resources required. It thus decided to employ DynCorp International to train the ANP, with the State Department giving DynCorp $24 million to set up training camps across Afghanistan. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Mercenaries, Pakistan Horizon, Taliban, Trump, United States

M.A. Shiwani: The Islamic State, 2.0? 

It is very clear that state-building and strategic development is no more a priority for the Trump Administration.

After a nine-month-long military campaign and a resultant refugee crisis that has affected more than half a million people, Mosul, according to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has finally been “liberated” from the hold of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). What is left behind, however, seems indifferentiable from the ancient, obliterated walls of Troy. This, the prime minister claims, is still a “great victory for all of Iraq and Iraqis”. For anyone remotely familiar with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, such claims are traumatizingly similar to those made by the United States of America following its, ‘success’ in the war. It seems as if the result of Iraq’s previous, ‘liberation’, whereby Saddam Hussein was hanged and then Iraq was left for dead — much like a beast disposes of a carcass after it is done clawing on its flesh— have been forgotten.

Here, it is important to note that the situation in Iraq after the war of 2003 was worse than the pre-war situation, with 70,000 people cumulatively losing their lives under Saddam Hussein but more than 100,000 Iraqis being killed only in 2013. Is it, then, not alarming that the, ‘successes’ of 2017 are strikingly similar to the, ‘successes’ of 2003? Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri — a former chairman of the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, in his book, Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos presents a, ‘viscous cycle of perilous interventions’, where he proves that one military intervention for ‘liberation’ is usually cause for a subsequent military intervention, also for, ‘liberation’. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, India, Iraq

A Talk on National Security in Pakistan by NSA General Nasser Khan Janjua

Pakistan is misunderstood and underestimated. Pakistan and India cannot remain enemies forever. Ruling hearts and minds is the key to unlocking Balochistan’s problems. The world must take India to task over Kashmir. 

National security is more important than ever in an overheated global political environment and NSA Janjua addressed the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 14 April 2017. Trump’s strikes on Syria, his use of the dreaded MOAB against ISIS/ISIL in Afghanistan, his deteriorating ties with the Kremlin and his standoff with North Korea are examples of global events that demonstrate spiralling volatility in international relations. Closer to home, the destruction of traditional secular power structures in the Arab world has resulted in extreme turmoil, innumerable civilian deaths and untold human misery. Stratospheric levels of terrorism have resulted in new military partnerships. The Saudi conceived Islamic Military Alliance – the “Muslim NATO” – is headed by Pakistan’s former army chief General Raheel Sharif. To see Saudi Arabia’s special forces marching alongside Pakistan’s military during last month’s Independence Day parade was one thing.

But to have also witnessed the attendance of China’s presidential guard of honour in Islamabad as a symbolic show of solidarity must have irked India where the present treatment of minorities must be making its secular founders turn in their graves. Regarding the ongoing bloodshed in Kashmir, it is hard to surpass Arundhati Roy’s sublime conclusion that “India has no option but to colonise itself”. China is keen to show India that Pakistan has friends and that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an important project for Beijing. Mian Nawaz Sharif seems quite secure against his rivals because of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision that, despite clearly unflattering parallels to The Godfather, he is not obliged to resign because of revelations about his wealth in the Panama Papers. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, BJP, China, Courts, CPEC, Discussion, Events, India, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Russia, Syria, Trump, United States

Adviser Sartaj Aziz: The Role of Russia and China is Vital for Regional Changes

Nawaz Sharif’s first contact with Donald Trump was a very pleasant one. India is trying to isolate Pakistan. Islamabad will give a befitting reply to New Delhi on every front. Ties with Afghanistan remain complicated.

Sartaj Aziz is a renowned figure in politics. He used to be a senator and also served as the finance minister and foreign minister under past administrations. He spoke to the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 11 February 2017. These days he is the foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister, who is also the present foreign minister. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the architect of Pakistan’s 1973 Constitution, was prime minister and foreign minister simultaneously from December 1971-March 1977. Mimicking the slain premier, who was judicially murdered during the Zia years, the present prime minister, Nawaz Sharif has held the office prime minister and foreign minister since 2013; a trait he is at times vehemently criticised for. We have a tormented constitutional history indeed. The fall of Ayub Khan and the martial law of Yahya Khan meant that the judiciary’s role was tried and tested beyond what one may consider “normal”.

Pakistan’s 1962 Constitution provided that the speaker of the National Assembly should become the acting president until a new president was elected but Abdul Jabbar Khan did not become acting president because the dictator Yahya Khan disgracefully usurped power. In A History of the Judiciary in Pakistan, Hamid Khan describes the period from 1968 to 1975 as “turbulent times”. According to him, Hamoodur Rahman CJ tried to steer the ship as best he could but he was unable save the judiciary from adversity. “During those seven years, the judiciary lived through the political movement against Ayub Khan, the martial law of Yahya Khan, the civilian martial law of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Bhutto, Brexit, China, Constitution 1973, Disarmament, Europe, Human Rights, India, Islamophobia, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Russia, Trump, United States

‘A German Perspective on Pakistan and its Big Neighbours’: A Talk by Professor Conrad Schetter

‘Power depends on economics and not on military forces’ – Watch Video

Professor Conrad Schetter, Associated Member of the Center for Development Research (ZEF), Directorate of the University of Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany recently addressed the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on A German Perspective on Pakistan and Its Big Neighbours. He is a notable scholar and some of his coauthored publications include Local Security-Making in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (2016), Security: What Is It? What Does It Do? (2016) and Protected Rather Than Protracted: Strengthening Displaced Persons in Peace Processes (2015). His key expertise concerns the civil-military nexus, the politics of interventions and local politics. Professor Schetter is also involved in numerous ongoing projects including On the phenomenon of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan and Protected rather than protracted – Strengthening refugees and peace.

In his talk on 13 December 2016 chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, he emphasised Germany’s strong relationship with Pakistan pointing out in that regard that the name of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet, is very significant because he studied in Germany and was awarded his PhD from Munich University. He also highlighted that it is high time for Pakistan to realign its tactics in its own neighbourhood because in today’s global politics, economic power is more important than military or strategic power. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, China, CPEC, Discussion, Events, India, Iran, Pakistan, Peace building, Politics, United States

‘The Future of Afghanistan’: A Talk by Professor Marvin Weinbaum

Unfortunately Afghanistan’s future is rather bleak – Watch Video

Events in Afghanistan influence politics on the international stage. Pakistan has an uneasy relationship with the Afghans and India, in the form of premier Narendra Modi, has sought to gain political mileage by exploiting the historic misunderstandings across the so-called Durand Line. In rather interesting times, Marvin Weinbaum, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and currently a scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, delivered a lecture on The Future of Afghanistan at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs  (PIIA) on 18 November 2016. He has worked for US Department of State Bureau of Intelligence Research for four years (1999-2003). PIIA Chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan moderated the lecture. Professor Weinbaum was clear that Afghanistan’s future is unfortunately not very bright because one-third of its territory – mainly the rural areas – is effectively controlled by the Taliban and other extremist groups.

These gains are not attributable to the Taliban’s reorganisation or rise in popularity. Rather they are bound up with the failure of the Kabul government to meet the expectation of the Afghan people. Our most learned and distinguished guest was clear that Pakistan influence on Taliban has receded significantly and he was of the view that Pakistan never was able to dictate to the Taliban even when they were in Kabul. He attacked Washington’s policy Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Events, Pakistan, PIIA, Politics, United States

Ahmed Rashid: Continuing Search for Stability: Pakistan and Afghanistan

The West has endorsed two rigged elections in Afghanistan and the military situation has never been worse than it is now. Using proxies encourages neighbours to follow suit. Watch Introduction, Main Lecture and Q&A.

Acclaimed author and journalist Mr Ahmed Rashid spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Friday, 11 March 2016. His lecture aimed to make sense of the spiralling trend towards violence and militancy in the region. He argued that Pakistan’s interference in Afghan matters using proxies has created widespread problems and cataclysmic failure. For him, claims that the Taliban are being beaten are wholly incorrect and amount to a “fallacy”. Rashid is the author of numerous books including the widely read publication Taliban. His other books include Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia and Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Disaster in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia and Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

His talk looked at the emerging trends in jihad and insurrection in the region and interlinked the Afghan situation to the wider issues of jihad as seen by the governments of countries such as Iran, Russia and the Central Asian Republics all of which were involved in backing different Taliban factions in Afghanistan. He also questioned the efficacy of Pakistan’s Zarb-e-Azb operation. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Events, Iran, Islam, Pakistan, PIIA, Politics, Russia, United States