Tag Archives: Pakistan

Cool “Afghanistan Withdrawal”, Bro, by Caitlin Johnstone

Yes, the US is withdrawing from Afghanistan . . . but not really. From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:

The US government is reportedly close to securing a deal with Pakistan that will ensure its ability to continue military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, the nation where the Biden administration proudly “ended” a decades-long war.

“The Biden administration has told lawmakers that the US is nearing a formalized agreement with Pakistan for use of its airspace to conduct military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, according to three sources familiar with the details of a classified briefing with members of Congress that took place on Friday morning,” reads a new report from CNN.

“The briefing comes as the White House is still trying to ensure that it can carry out counterterrorism operations against ISIS-K and other adversaries in Afghanistan now that there is no longer a US presence on the ground for the first time in two decades after the NATO withdrawal from the country,” the report reads.

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Washington Wants to Conquer by Dividing, by Brian Cloughley

Most Americans don’t pay much attention to either Pakistan or India, but they are both nuclear armed, they are in a geopolitically vital area, and they have been at loggerheads for decades. From Brian Cloughley at strategic-culture.org:

Biden and his hawks should pause to think where they’re trying to take the world, and consider an approach that could lead to compromise.

India and Pakistan share a long border and do not get along well, to put it mildly. The main cause of disagreement is the divided territory of Kashmir which as long ago as 1948 necessitated UN Security Council attention, resulting in a Resolution determining, among other things, that there should be a “free and impartial plebiscite to decide whether the State of Jammu and Kashmir is to accede to India or Pakistan.” This has not happened and the seemingly insoluble dispute could well lead to a fourth war between the countries, both of which are nuclear-armed.

It might be thought that in such circumstances the world’s “best-educated, best-prepared” nation that President Biden also declares has “unmatched strength” would apply at least some of its education, preparation and power to encouraging India and Pakistan to engage in meaningful negotiations and move towards rapprochement.

Not a hope.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman recently visited India and Pakistan, but rather than attempting to coax and persuade her host nations to reduce bilateral tension and confrontation she publicly insulted Pakistan and urged India to cooperate militarily even more closely with the U.S. She widened the chasm of polarisation in a public speech in India’s commercial centre, Mumbai, by declaring “We don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan, and we have no interest in returning to the days of hyphenated India-Pakistan. That’s not where we are. That’s not where we’re going to be.” Not content with demonstrably taking sides and thus stoking fires in a tinder-box region, she said that when she went on to Pakistan next day her discussions there would be for “a very specific and narrow purpose”, and everything that was discussed would be passed on to India because “we share information back and forth between our governments”.

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The Silver Lining of the Afghanistan Withdrawal: Afghanistan is No Longer Simply a US Problem, by Doug Bandow

Afghanistan is in a rough neighborhood. It might work out well for the US to let Afghanistan’s neighbors worry about it. From Doug Bandow at aeir.org:

Washington’s tragic misadventure in Afghanistan is over. Despite the botched ending, America’s withdrawal was long overdue. Central Asia never warranted so much U.S. attention.

Afghanistan first drew Washington in after the Soviets invaded. Few Americans knew where the country was. None expressed an interest in building a modern nation there. The idea was simple: arm Afghans to kill Moscow’s soldiers, thereby weakening what President Ronald Reagan accurately called the Evil Empire. Spread democracy and equal rights for women? Not so much.

A decade later the U.S.S.R.’s legions fled back into the Soviet Union. A couple years after that the Soviet-supported state collapsed, which was followed by a civil war among the victorious Mujahedeen. Washington had poured torrents of cash into Afghanistan, but foolishly allowed Pakistan to dole it out. This empowered radical jihadists, including Osama bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda, Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the anti-Western Haqqani Network, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, founder of the radical Islamist Hezb-e-Islami, theParty of Islam. Some Americans complained that Washington didn’t stick around to “help” the Afghans. Had it done so, Americans would have been treated like Russians—shot at on their way out.

In 1994 a group called the Taliban arose. It enforced a 7th century fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. By 1996, it won control of most of the country by suppressing the Mujahedeen, and ending the chaotic violence which enveloped the country. The Taliban looked inward.

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What US Defeat in Afghanistan Means for China, by Alfred W. McCoy

The US government will not bounce back on the world stage as it did after Vietnam. From Alfred W. McCoy at consortiumnews.com:

For the implications of U.S. global power, the collapse of Kabul was incomparably worse than the fall of Saigon, writes Alfred W. McCoy. 

Chinese cargo trucks awaiting Pakistan customs clearance in 2007 at Sost, the last town inside Pakistan before the Chinese border. (Anthony Maw, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The collapse of the American project in Afghanistan may fade fast from the news in the U.S., but don’t be fooled. It couldn’t be more significant in ways few in the country can even begin to grasp.

“Remember, this is not Saigon,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a television audience on Aug. 15, the day the Taliban swept into the Afghan capital, pausing to pose for photos in the grandly gilded presidential palace. He was dutifully echoing his boss, President Joe Biden, who had earlier rejected any comparison with the fall of the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon, in 1975, insisting that “there’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”

Both were right, but not in the ways they intended. Indeed, the collapse of Kabul was not comparable. It was worse, incomparably so. And its implications for the future of U.S. global power are far more serious than the loss of Saigon.

On the surface, similarities abound. In both South Vietnam and Afghanistan, Washington spent 20 years and countless billions of dollars building up massive, conventional armies, convinced that they could hold off the enemy for a decent interval after the U.S. departure. But presidents Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam and Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan both proved to be incompetent leaders who never had a chance of retaining power without continued fulsome American backing.

Amid a massive North Vietnamese offensive in the spring of 1975, President Thieu panicked and ordered his army to abandon the northern half of the country, a decision that precipitated Saigon’s fall just six weeks later. As the Taliban swept across the countryside this summer, President Ghani retreated into a fog of denial, insisting his troops defend every remote, rural district, allowing the Taliban to springboard from seizing provincial capitals to capturing Kabul in just 10 days.

With the enemy at the gates, President Thieu filled his suitcases with clinking gold bars for his flight into exile, while President Ghani (according to Russian reports) snuck off to the airport in a cavalcade of cars loaded with cash. As enemy forces entered Saigon and Kabul, helicopters ferried American officials from the U.S. embassy to safety, even as surrounding city streets swarmed with panicked local citizens desperate to board departing flights.

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Afghanistan Is Going To Be a Mess: Let China, Russia, Iran, and Others Handle It, by Doug Bandow

The Chinese and Russians watched the US pour blood and treasure into Afghanistan and get less than nothing for it. Now, if the US is really getting out of Afghanistan, it’s somebody else’s turn. From Doug Bandow at antiwar.com:

The U.S. is leaving Afghanistan – finally, after two decades. The result is not likely to be pretty. Government soldiers are surrendering. Taliban forces are advancing. Kabul officials are panicking. The Biden administration is desperately trying to slow the regime’s incipient collapse with resumed airstrikes.

It is a tragic situation, but, looking back, at least, appears inevitable. The Afghan civil war is in its 40th year. The US has been involved for almost 20 years. The US quickly achieved its initial objectives, disrupting al-Qaeda for conducting the 9/11 terrorist attacks and punishing the Taliban for hosting a-Qaeda.

However, expanding the mission to nation-building proved to be a bust. Despite the expenditure of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, the result was essentially a Potemkin state. The Kabul authorities always were less than ideal: when I visited Afghanistan, I found no Afghan with anything good to say about his or her government who did not work for it.

Even the regime’s decidedly limited authority began evaporating the moment President Joe Biden announced his intention to withdraw. America’s effort had neither created a real country nor convinced the Afghan people to fight for their government. Although the special forces, along with some regular units, continue to fight bravely, there likely are too few loyalists to sustain government control of major urban areas, let alone the entire country.

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New ‘Great Game’ Gets Back To Basics, by Pepe Escobar

The US quasi-withdrawal in Afghanistan will certainly complicate the Eurasian political situation. From Pepe Escobar at zerohedge.com:

Russia-China-Iran alliance is taking Afghanistan’s bull by the horns…

The Great Game: This lithograph by British Lieutenant James Rattray shows Shah Shuja in 1839 after his enthronement as Emir of Afghanistan in the Bala Hissar (fort) of Kabul. Rattray wrote: ‘A year later the sanctity of the scene was bloodily violated: Shah Shuja was murdered.’ Photo: Wikipedia

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is on a Central Asian loop all through the week. He’s visiting Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The last two are full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, founded 20 years ago.

The SCO heavyweights are of course China and Russia. They are joined by four Central Asian “stans” (all but Turkmenistan), India and Pakistan. Crucially, Afghanistan and Iran are observers, alongside Belarus and Mongolia.

And that leads us to what’s happening this Wednesday in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital. The SCO will hold a 3 in 1: meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers, the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, and a conference titled “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities.”

At the same table, then, we will have Wang Yi, his very close strategic partner Sergey Lavrov and, most importantly, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar. They’ll be debating trials and tribulations after the hegemon’s withdrawal and the miserable collapse of the myth of NATO “stabilizing” Afghanistan.

Let’s game a possible scenario: Wang Yi and Lavrov tell Atmar, in no uncertain terms, that there’s got to be a national reconciliation deal with the Taliban, brokered by Russia-China, with no American interference, including the end of the opium-heroin ratline.

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Pepe Escobar: Say Hello To The Diplo-Taliban

There are many nuances and details that defy simplistic analysis concerning Afghanistan and its place in Asia after the Americans leave. From Pepe Escobar at The Asia Times via zerohedge.com:

Deploying diplomatic skills refined from Doha to Moscow, the Taliban in 2021 has little to do with its 2001 incarnation…

Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (center) and other members of the Taliban arrive to attend an international conference in Moscow on March 18, 2021. Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko / AFP

A very important meeting took place in Moscow last week, virtually hush-hush. Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, received Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s national security adviser.

There were no substantial leaks.

A bland statement pointed to the obvious:

They “focused on the security situation in Afghanistan during the pullout of Western military contingencies and the escalation of the military-political situation in the northern part of the country.”

The real story is way more nuanced. Mohib, representing embattled President Ashraf Ghani, did his best to convince Patrushev that the Kabul administration represents stability. It does not – as the subsequent Taliban advances proved.

Patrushev knew Moscow could not offer any substantial measure of support to the current Kabul arrangement because doing so would burn bridges the Russians would need to cross in the process of engaging the Taliban. Patrushev knows that the continuation of Team Ghani is absolutely unacceptable to the Taliban – whatever the configuration of any future power-sharing agreement.

So Patrushev, according to diplomatic sources, definitely was not impressed.

This week we can all see why. A delegation from the Taliban political office went to Moscow essentially to discuss with the Russians the fast-evolving mini-chessboard in northern Afghanistan. The Taliban had been to Moscow four months earlier, along with the extended troika (Russia, US, China, Pakistan) to debate the new Afghan power equation.

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A Saigon Moment in the Hindu Kush, by Pepe Escobar

The Chinese, Russians, Indians, and Pakistanis will fill the void. From Pepe Escobar at unz.com:

The US is on the verge of its own second Vietnam repeated as farce in a haphazard retreat from Afghanistan

US Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009. – The US pullout from the Pentagon’s once mighty Bagram Air Base in the dead of night, while Taliban fighters pour across the country, looks a lot like a military defeat. Photo: AFP / Manpreet Romana
US Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009. – The US pullout from the Pentagon’s once mighty Bagram Air Base in the dead of night, while Taliban fighters pour across the country, looks a lot like a military defeat. Photo: AFP / Manpreet Romana

And it’s all over

For the unknown soldier

It’s all over

For the unknown soldier

The Doors, “The Unknown Soldier”

Let’s start with some stunning facts on the Afghan ground.

The Taliban are on a roll. Earlier this week their PR arm was claiming they hold 218 Afghan districts out of 421 – capturing new ones every day. Tens of districts are contested. Entire Afghan provinces are basically lost to the government in Kabul, which has been de facto reduced to administer a few scattered cities under siege.

Already on July 1, the Taliban announced they controlled 80% of Afghan territory. That’s close to the situation 20 years ago, only a few weeks before 9/11, when Commander Ahmad Shah Masoud told me in the Panjshir valley , as he prepared a counter-offensive, that the Taliban were 85% dominant.

Their new tactical approach works like a dream. First, there’s a direct appeal to soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to surrender. Negotiations are smooth and deals fulfilled. Soldiers in the low thousands have already joined the Taliban without a single shot fired.

Map by CIG / Telegram / Counter-Intelligence (t.me/CIG telegram) showing recent Taliban advances and Afghan districts being captured, as of July 5, 2021

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The India-China, Himalayan Puzzle, by Pepe Escobar

Pepe Escobar knows a very important of the world that most Americans know little about—Eurasia. From Escobar at consortiumnews.com:

The Indo-China border is a strategic chessboard and it’s gotten way more complex. 

Valley near Kangan, Kashmir. (Kashmir Pictures, Flickr)

It was straight from an Orientalist romantic thriller set in the Himalayas: soldiers fighting each other with stones and iron bars in the dead of night on a mountain ridge over 4,000 meters high, some plunging to their deaths into a nearly frozen river and dying of hypothermia.

In November 1996, China and India had agreed not to use guns along their 3,800 km-long border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which sports an occasional tendency to derail into a Line Out of Control.

Yet this was not just another Himalayan scuffle. Of course there were echoes of the 1962 Sino-Indian war – which started pretty much the same way, leading Beijing to defeat New Delhi on the battlefield. But now the strategic chessboard is way more complex, part of the evolving 21st Century New Great Game.

Indian army marching in 1962 war, during which Indian Air Force was not used. (Indian Defence Review)

The situation had to be defused. Top military commanders from China and India finally met face to face this past weekend. And on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister spokesman Zhao Lijian confirmed they “agreed to take necessary measures to promote a cooling of the situation.”

The Indian Army concurred: “There was mutual consensus to disengage (…) from all frictions areas in Eastern Ladakh.”

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India: The Next Apartheid State? by Danny Sjursen

Will India swallow Kashmir? From Danny Sjursen at antiwar.com:

It has long been called the most dangerous place in the world. Still, few Americans know anything about the place; nor could they point out the troubled region of Kashmir on a map. Yet for 62 years India and Pakistan have contested for control of the province. In fact, a long-running insurgency there has even been punctuated by at least three inter-state wars between the nuclear armed powers. Now, after India recently revoked Kashmir’s “special status” – essentially annexing the disputed (and Muslim-majority) territory – there might just be another war. Tens of thousands have already been killed over the years; how many more will now die is anyone’s guess.

It’s tempting to blame the British for the whole mess. After all, like so many ongoing world conflicts, the violent struggle in Kashmir has its roots in the dissolution of venal, exploitative British Empire in the decades after World War II. Before its independence in 1947, British India – known as the raj – consisted of a massive, ethnically diverse mega-state that included the modern countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma (Myanmar). When the Brits took off, ethnic and religious tensions boiled over into a state of civil war as the raj bloodily devolved into separate Hindu and Muslim majority countries. Perhaps a million people died and fifteen million others were displaced in a tragic population swap that set a gold standard for ethnic cleansing.

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